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Sisonke Pota-Nkonki is the founder of Siisonke Women Round Tables (SWRT), an organisation focusing on the empowerment and support of the girl child and women of South Africa.

SWRT aims specifically to encourage and motivate the girl child to believe in herself and her dreams – despite her circumstances and background.

Sisonke chats to Go Hustle writer Ondela Mlandu about why it’s so important for women to support one another, share information, collaborate, celebrate each other’s successes, and ultimately pave the way for other women to take their seat at the table.

A calling to inspire women

Sisionke believes empowerment is about inspiring women so that they are, in turn, able to inspire others. “I’m passionate about helping others where I can, knowing I’ve put a smile on someone’s face, and knowing that someone else benefited positively from my assistance,” she says.

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Few things to keep in mind when starting an organisation…

To start an organisation that is purpose-driven requires passion and patience in dealing with people. “You need to have a clear idea of your vision and, ultimately, your purpose on this earth,” says Sisonke. “It requires one to have that urge to assist others who are less fortunate. If a young girl possesses those key things, then it will all come naturally. Remember, purpose and passion always have a way of directing a person towards a particular path.”

The formation of SWRT and the desire to empower women is not so much a career for Sisonke as a calling. And, like with any other start-ups, there are bound to be tough times.

“The most difficult for me is when you are trying to rope in sponsors and share [your passion] with the world. People don’t necessarily grasp what you’re trying to achieve and others are skeptical about it being another ‘fly by night’ type of organisation that won’t necessarily last,” she says.

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Challenges that have come with the pandemic

“SWRT is still at the infancy stage,” explains Sisonke. “Apart from the challenges that have come with the lockdown restrictions (gatherings, to be exact), I’m enduring challenges around being able to market and expose the organisation. Funding is also a challenge,” she adds.

Luckily, technology has made things easier – like hosting virtual events, which come with fewer cost implications. “When it comes to marketing and exposure, I’m slowly but surely working on overcoming those [obstacles],” says Sisonke.

Leadership lessons learnt along the way…

1/ Don’t burn bridges.

“I’ve learnt that the decisions you make earlier on in your life have an impact on your future endeavours. For example, never ever burn bridges because going forward you never know who you might need on your journey to fulfilling your purpose.”

2/ Believe in yourself.

“Break all self-limiting beliefs, never doubt yourself (no matter what!) and remember not to lose sight of the bigger prize.”

A must-read book for every woman…

“I would encourage every young woman to find the time to read the book by Louise L. Hay titled ‘Love Yourself, Heal your Life’. I believe that many young women go through a phase in their lives where they are dependent on love and confirmation of their beauty and capabilities from others, but in actual fact, it all begins with you loving and accepting yourself first, flaws and all,” says Sisonke.

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