As South Africans take a moment to reflect on the role of women in our country tomorrow, we’d like to take a look at some of the women who have shaped our country, made inroads into male-dominant sectors and are simply laudable for their contributions to society.
Most amazing South African women
- Karen Zoid
She’s most well known for being the first Afrikaans South African rock star. She’s noted as a game-changer in the South African music industry and has recently joined the judging panel of The Voice SA and started the late night talk show Republiek of Zoid Afrika. She’s shared the stage with international stars like John Mayer, Annie Lennox, Metallica, Simple Plan and UB40 and has won numerous awards during her career. She has become a prominent campaigner against drug abuse stemming from her youth as an addict.
- Miriam Makeba
Zenzile Miriam Makeba was one of South Africa’s most influential singers of all time. She was also an important civil rights activist – a title which saw her exiled from her country for several years. She performed for the likes of John F. Kennedy and was admired by stars like Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Nina Simone and Miles Davis. She won a Grammy Award in 1966 and several other awards during her lifetime.
- Pippa Tshabalala
In an industry dominated by men, Pippa Tshabalala is one of the most noteworthy gamers and gaming presenters in South Arica. She started her career as creative consultant in the media industry as well as being a DJ on UJFM. She became a presenter on the video game TV show called PlayR which expanded to a live show called The Verge. From there she moved from strength, becoming a On-Air Producer for MTV Base, MTV SA and ultimately taking up her role as Senior On-Air Producer for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, NickToons and NickJr at Viacom International.
- Bessie Emery Head
As the child of a wealthy white South African woman and a black servant, Bessie had an unconventional upbringing. She started her career as journalist for the golden City Post and Drum before moving to Botswana. Here she started her career as writer, producing world famous novels like When Rain Clouds Gather, Mary and A Question of Power and was awarded the South African Order of Ikhamanga in Gold in 2003 for her exceptional contribution to social change and freedom.
- Gabisile ‘simply the best’ Tshabalala
Growing up, Tshabalala played football on the streets of Evaton and frequently got into fights. Streetfigting became boxing when former amateur boxer Mpembe opened a gym in her area. Tshabalala later won the South African junior-featherweight belt and was named one of the greatest female boxers in South Africa. She will face off against reigning WBC bantamweight belt champion Catherine Piri in August this year – the first South African to get this far in challenging for the WBC belt.
- Charlize Theron
As one of the first South Africans to make it onto the Hollywood scene, Charlize has made her mark on the film industry and stolen the hearts of millions around the globe. She started as a dancer, but was awarded a modelling contract at 16 which prompted her to move to Milan. After that she moved to New York where she furthered her ballet training. She was spotted by chance by a talent agent, John Crosby, after she got into a shouting match with a bank teller who refused to cash her check. She made her film debut in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest and the rest, as they say is history. She’s become a prominent social activist and participates in numerous NPO activities.
- Thato Kgatlhanye
Thato Kgatlhanye is a South African social entrepreneur and CEO of Rethaka (Pty) Ltd. Her woman-owned business is focused on social change and she is noted for such green innovations like the Repurposed Schoolbags which charge up during the day to provide light for children in evenings so they can study. She’s won the SAB foundation Social Innovations awards in 2013, the Red bull Amaphiko Social Entrepreneur award, The Special Ministerial award at the CPSI Public Sector Innovation Awards, the 21 Icon award and International Elle Impact Award.
- Olive Schreiner
Olive Schreiner was a prominent author, anti-war campaigner and intellectual who graced South Africa with her presence from 1855 to 1920. She is most well known for her novel, A Story of an African farm which is noted as one of the first feminist novels internationally. She became involved in female activism as well as civil and women’s rights movements. She was directly opposed to things like the ‘strop bill’ imposed by Cecil John Rhodes which allowed the flogging of black and coloured servants for minor offences. She had contact with other prominent activists like Gandhi, Emily Hobhouse and Elizabeth Maria Molteno.
- Navanethem Pillay
This prominent South African woman has not only made her mark on the South African legal system, but also internationally. As a South African jurist, Pillay has served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was the first non-white female judge of the High Court of South Africa and has also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda. In 1973 she won the right for political prisoners on Robben Island to have access to lawyers and she’s involved in numerous social activities such as shelters for victims of domestic violence and the Advice Desk for victims of abuse. She’s been awarded the Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights, has received five honorary degrees from international institutions and was ranked Forbes 64th most powerful woman in the world in 2009.
- Natalie du Toit
At the age of 17, du Toit was hit by a car while riding her scooter back to school after swimming practice which led to the amputation of her leg. She started swimming again before she could walk with the intention of competing in the Commonwealth Games. During these games, a mere year after her leg was amputated; du Toit won the multi-disability 50 m freestyle and the multi-disability 100 m freestyle and set a world record. She also became the first athlete with a disability in history to qualify for the final of an able-bodied event. She later won gold in the All-Africa Games while competing against able-bodied swimmers. At the 2005 Paralympics she one five old and one silver medal and was consequently awarded the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year award. She won five more gold medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympics.
- Pumeza Matshikiza
Simply known as Pumeza throughout the world, this South African operatic soprano is one of the most prominent female singers to have made it onto the world stage. She graduated cum laude from the University of Cape Town College of Music and was awarded scholarships at the Royal College of Music and Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. She later joined the Stuttgart Opera and has performed in world stages in renowned operas like La Boheme, De Zauberflote, Le Nozze di Fiaro, Carmen and the Minotar. She released her first debut album, Voice of Hope in 2014 and her second ‘Arias’ in May this year.
- Amanda Coetzer
Coetzer is known as one of the most prominent female sports stars during the late 80s and 90s. One of her most noteworthy achievements was undoubtedly when she became the international female tennis player to hand world no.1 player, Steffi Graf her worst ever defeat – beating her by 6-0 and 6-1 in 56 minutes. At the Canadian Open in 1995 she beat three of the world’s top players, Steffi Graf, Jana Novotna and Mary Pierce before losing against Monica Seles in the final. She was the first South African woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final and in 1997 she beat World No. 1 player Martina Hingis in Leipzig. She consequently became the first and only player ever to defeat Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport while they were ranked no. 1 in the world.
- Fatima Meer
As a South African female writer, academic, screenwriter and anti-apartheid activist, Fatima Meer’s name is one which will always be remembered. Living with a father who was a newspaper editor, she became aware of social injustices in South Africa. She started the Student Passive Resistance committee as well as the Durban District Women’s League. She joined the University of Natal staff and became a fellow of the London School of Economics later. She’s noted for writing the first authorised biography of Nelson Mandela called Higher than Hope and received numerous awards throughout her lifetime.
- Wendy Appelbaum
As the Owner of De Morgenzon Wine Estate, Wendy Appelbaum has made a significant impact on the wining industry. In 2012 Appelbaum was named one of the 10 Female Millionaires to Watch in Africa. But as one of the richest women in Africa, Appelbaum has also seen it as her duty to give back. As a prominent philanthropist Appelbaum has donated in excess of R274 million to charity. She’s currently director of Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, director of Southern African board of the Synergos Institute and board member of the Women’s Leadership board at Harvard University. In June this year her wine, the De Morgenzon Chardonnay Reserve 2015 was named the best wine in the world at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards in the UK.
- Maggie Laubser
Maria Magdalena Laubser is known as one of the most prominent figures in the South African art world. After meeting Edward Roworth, her interest in art was piqued and she studied under him for two months in 1903 which saw her earn a silver medal for her work. In 1907 she was elected to the South African Society for Artists and represented her work at the annual SASA exhibition. She subsequently opened her own art studio. She later moved abroad, working in the study of Anton Mauve and moved several times after this to study and practice her art in numerous countries. After returning to South Africa, her work received harsh criticism, but she persevered and had her first solo exhibition in 1929. In 1936 she was elected to the selection panel of the British Empire Exhibition and in 1943 she received the honorary medal of the Academy of Arts and Science in South Africa with numerous subsequent awards, medals and honours thereafter.
- Helen Suzman
Born to Jewish Lithuanian immigrants, Suzman would become one of the most prominent names in South Africa’s political history. What made her most noteworthy is the fact that she was the sole parliamentarian opposed to apartheid for thirteen years in cabinet as part of the Progressive Party. She became good friends with Nelson Mandela, although she spoke out against some of his views as well – showing all politicians and leaders that she would uphold what is right and not what is popular. She was noted as one of the people who persuaded Mandela to drop the ANC’s revolutionary programme for a more evolutionary one and maintaining democracy and although she received much criticism from both left and right wing, she was lauded for maintaining a consistent stance on freedom and law. She received two Nobel Peace Prize nominations and became an honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989.
- Bonang Matheba
Bonang Matheba is most well known for being the only face of Revlon outside the United States – joining the other three ambassadors Olivia Wilde, Halle Berry and Emma Stone as one of the faces for this prominent brand. She’s the owner of Bonang Matheba Entertainment and presenter on top Billing, Clash of the Choirs, Afternoon Express and on-air presenter on MetroFM. As a Master of Ceremonies, she’s shared the stage with Prince Harry of Wales, the Kardashian Sisters and other prominent international stars. She started the clothing range, Legit in 2008 and has a lingerie line with Woolworths. She’s won the SA Style Icon of the Year, Female Continental Style Influencer of the Year, Favourites South African Radio DJ (Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards), Africa’s Most Powerful Women in Media and GSport Style Star awards and has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Grazia, Cleo and Glamour magazines. She’s also the first South African celebrity to launch an online reality show.
- Lara Logan
Lara Logan is a South African television and radio journalist as well as a war correspondent. She started her career as a reporter for the Sunday Tribune in Durban and then moved to the Daily news in 1990. She subsequently moved to Reuters Television in Africa as senior producer before becoming a freelance journalist. Her reporting saw her receive assignments for ITN, Fox/Sky, CBS News, ABC News, NBC and CNN. She made her biggest break ever while working for GMTV Breakfast Television. After requesting a visa to Afghanistan for GMTV, she infiltrated the American-British-backed Northern Alliance and interviewed their commander General Babajan. She was then offered a position as official correspondent for CBS News and has become one of the most prominent war correspondents internationally
- Bridgette Radebe
Starting off as a common miner in the 1908s, it’s amazing how Radebe has grown in strength to become one of the most prominent women in the mining industry. Radebe received a contract for managing individual shaft mining operations after which she started her own mining firm, Mmakau Mining and became the first black female mining entrepreneur. Though she has received much criticism for some of her views, Radebe has undoubtedly become one of the most prominent business women in South Africa. She was awarded the International Business Person of the Year Award by the Global Foundation for Democracy in 2008 and Forbes Africa’s Richest Women award. She is director at SAPPI, and has seats on the Leadership Foundation IWF, Nabera Mining, SA Minerals Development Association, South African Mining Development Association, International Women’s Forum SA, Cast Mining and Construction South Africa and founder of the New Africa Mining Fund.
- Elizabeth Maria Molteno
Born into an influential Cape family, Molteno was to become one of the most prominent activists in South African history and believed in gender and racial equality. As an anti-war activist during the Anglo-Boer war, her views saw her lose her job. She later founded the South African Conciliation Committee and became friends with Gandhi through their corresponding views. She was heavily involved in non-racialism and women’s suffrage and campaigned against prisoner abuse both in concentration camps and later by the South African police force.
- Zola Budd
As South Africa’s favourite barefoot runner, Budd captured the hearts of sporting enthusiasts worldwide. At the tender age of 17, Budd broke the women’s 5000 m world record but was excluded from international competitions due to world’s boycott against apartheid. She subsequently applied for British citizenship but still received a lot of political heat after moving to the UK. This didn’t deter her, however, and Budd pushed on, breaking records and winning races across the globe. She subsequently represented South Africa at the 1992 Summer Olympics, even though she’d retired from international competitions at the time. More than twenty years later she competed in her second Comrades Marathon and although she only wanted to improve on her time, she won the gold medal as first veteran and finishing seventh overall.
- Vanessa Gounden
Vanessa Gounden is without a doubt one of the most influential female businesswomen in South Africa. Not only is she South Africa’s first female mining magnate, but her businesses span healthcare services, financial services, lifestyle, leisure and even a fashion line. Growing up, Gounden lived with six adults and fourteen children in a house without electricity or hot water – cutting and preparing roses to assist her family financially. She became a primary school teacher, but after Mandela’s release he called her to ask if she would help him rebuild South Africa. Subsequent to her political involvement, she started an investment company HolGoun Investment Holdings, which later expanded to the mining and exploration, healthcare, financial, property, music, fashion, security and film production sectors. She launched her first clothing line in March 2011 at London Fashion Week. Gounden has also been heavily involved in philanthropic activities, providing funding for at least 60 needy students at one time through the HolGoun Development Trust and the Chatsworth Child & Family Welfare Society.
- Tanit Phoenix
After her discovery by a talent scout in Westville, Phoenix began her modelling career, appearing in international commercials for Adidas, Coca-Cola, Schweppes, Citroen, Nivea and more. After appearing in a European TV commercial she was chosen as cover girl for Maxim in Germany and a year after in the American addition. She received a #5 ranking in the FHM Sexiest Women in the World poll in 2004 and remained in the top 40 until 2007. Since then she has graced the covers of worldwide publications like Marie Claire, GQ, FHM, Cosmopolitan, Sport Illustrated and Maxim South Africa. In 2005 she starred as Jared Leto’s girlfriend in the movie Lord of War and has starred in subsequent films like Gallowwalkers, Kamasutra Nights, Lost Boys: The Thirst, Spud, Safe House and Death Race. She is also a makeup artist and took her first job in this role for the film Hardcore Henry where she transformed actor (and husband) Sharlto Copley into 11 different characters.
- Debora Patta
Although born in Southern Rhodesia, Patta moved to South Africa as a child where she attended school and university – obtaining a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in 1984. She became a political activist – teaching literacy in squatter camps until 1990 when she started her job as freelance reporter. She then joined Radio 702 and eventually became news editor for them in 1994. As reporter on the 1986 Samora Machel plane crash, she received several death threats and later had to provide testimony at the TRC hearings on the Helderberg plane crash. She later joined the e.tv crew as senior correspondent and later became chief anchor for their news desk. She is mostly known for producing and anchoring the investigative programme 3rd Degree and later resigned to become a foreign correspondent for CBS News.
- Thuli Madonsela
Thuli has become the true icon of South African democracy – as Public Protector and South African advocate who has proven her mirth. Although the daughter of informal traders, nothing could deter her, and Thuli graduated with a BA in Law from the University of Swaziland, an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and an LLD (honoris causa) from the University of Stellenbosch – later receiving another LLD (honoris causa) from the University of Cape Town. She served in both the ANC and UDF but believed that political office would not allow her to make the best contribution to society. She subsequently declined the position of ANC MP in the first post-apartheid Parliament although she helped draft the final constitution of South Africa during this time. Although she was appointed to the position of Public Protector by President Jacob Zuma, this has not deterred her from investigating the presidency and other prominent politicians and businessmen for corruption and she’s taken a stand for the public in holding leaders accountable for their actions.
- Pam Golding
Today we see her name everywhere – Pam Golding is certainly one of the most famous South Africans and leading women in business in Africa. As founder of the Pam Golding Property Group she’s attained renown throughout South Africa for her holdings and property franchise. She was named as Forbes Africa’s Richest Women in 2012 and has received numerous awards, including: Business Personality of the Year, Ambassadrice Honoraire, Sakeleier van die Jaar, Artemis Award, One of Leading 50 Women Entrepreneurs in the World and Businesswoman of the Year Award. In addition she is also the President of the National Association of Women Business Owners of South Africa, the patron of the Institute of Marketing, Premier of Western Cape Wives Charity Fund and Fine Music Radio, the governor of the University of Cape Town Foundation, trustee on the World Wildlife Fund and custodian of the Table Mountain Fund.
- Jennifer Thomson
Jennifer Thomson is one of the greatest scientists in South Africa. Her research focusing on the development of maize which is resistant to drought and maize streak virus had seen her receive international accolades. After receiving her BSc in zoology from the University of Cape Town, she got her MA from Cambridge University and a PhD in microbiology from Rhodes University. She subsequently became a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and a professor in genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand. She established the Laboratory for Molecular and Cell Biology for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and became head of the microbiology department at the University of Cape Town. She helped draft South Africa’s National Biotechnology Strategy. She is an internationally acclaimed speaker and serves on several biotech and microbiology boards. In 2004 she received the L’Oreal/Unesco award for women in science
- Ingrid Jonker
Ingrid Jonker was a prominent South African poet who is known for her work which mirrors that of American poet Sylvia Plath. After her grandfather’s death she, along with her sister, mother and grandmother were left destitute. Her mother later committed suicide – something which is said to have kindled Jonker’s poetry. Her first collection of poems Na die Somer were written before the age of 13 and at sixteen shed started correspondence with poet D.J. Opperman. She was vehemently opposed to her father’s role as chairman of the parliamentary select committee responsible for censorship, something which increased the rift between them. She became one of Die Sestigers along with Breyten Breytenbach, Andre Bring, Adam Small and Bartho Smit and opposed conservative Afrikaans literary norms. After witnessing how a black baby was shot and how the child died in his mother’s arms she wrote one of her most influential poems, Die Kind. After her death by suicide her works were translated to English, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hindi and Zulu.
- Major Catherine Labuschagne
Another amazing woman in South Africa is undoubtedly Major Catherine Labuschagne who became the first female fighter pilot ever to fly the supersonic South African Air Force Gripen Jas 39C in October 2010. Labuschagne is also the only female member of the SA Air Forces elite 2 Squadron which pilots single and dual-seat Gripens. She joined the airforce straight after school and attained her ‘wings’ in 2000 and went on to become one of South Africa’s most highly skilled female pilots – with more than 1 900 flight hours behind her.
- Tebello Nyokong
Tebello Nyokong is a world-renowned South African chemist and professor at Rhodes University. She is known in the industry for her work in photo-dynamic therapy for cancer treatment and one of the top three published scientists in South Africa. Her work has seen her receive the Order of Mapungubwe from the Presidency of South Africa, the South African Chemical Institute Gold Medal and the National Research Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also lauded for her research in nanotechnology. But Nyokong cites her interest in science as having started in the mountains of Lesotho here she had to take care of sheep – growing up as a barefoot child in impoverished conditions. She was inducted into the Lesotho Hall of fame in 2010 and received the L’Oreal-Unesco Award for Women in Science in 2009.
- Embeth Davidtz
Embeth Davidtz has followed Charlize as one of the most renowned South African female actresses. She made her acting debut as Juliet in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet and moved on to minor roles in South African Productions. She then moved to Los Angeles here she appeared in films like Army of Darkness and Schindler’s List before moving on to bigger roles in Murder in the First, Matilda, Fallen, The Gingerbread Man, Mansfield Park, Bicentennial Man, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Emperor’s Club, Junebug, Fracture, The Amazing Spiderman and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She also guest-starred as Dr Derek Shepherd’s sister in the drama series Grey’s Anatomy.
- Nikki Williams
Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, this South African singer/songwriter is probably most famous for having being married to Hollywood actor Nicholas Cage’s son, Weston. But what most people don’t know is that Williams is has written songs and lyrics for many prominent stars. Among others she’s credited with co-writing famous artist Demi Lovato’s song, Heart Attack and her debut single was co-written by Sia and produced by Stargate (Rihanna, Katy Perry). We look forward to seeing what Nikki does next in her career.
- Jenna Clifford
The name Jenna Clifford is synonymous with bespoke jewellery, and rightfully so, but Clifford came from humble beginnings. Born to a teen mother and a father who had to quit his job as plasterer due to a skin condition, Clifford always knew that she would have to work hard if she was to make a success in life. She started working behind the scenes as a jeweller in Urdang Jewellers at an early age and after her divorce she opened her own small jewellery business – designing affordable, low-end jewellery. During these startup years, Clifford worked 18 hours a day to establish the Jenna Clifford brand. Today her world-renowned jewellery is worn by A-list celebrities like Celine Dion and Serena Williams and one of the most prominent brands in South Africa. Believing that ethics is crucial to her business, Clifford uses only conflict-free diamonds, has dedicated an entire range to the Stop Rhino Poaching initiative and outsources much of her business to local workers and manufacturers.
- Ina Paarman
Like many South Africans, Ina Paarman’s love of cooking started with her grandmother. From a young age Paarman witnessed, sampled and enjoyed her gran’s home-roasted coffee, home baked bread and other culinary creations. She started her cooking career as home economics teacher in Edenvale before continuing her career in Sea Point and Wynberg. She then decided to start her own cooking school and wrote a book Cook with Ina Paarman for which she could not find a publisher. After funding her book publishing from a loan, her career took off and she eventually established Paarman Foods and today her recipes, spices and condiments can be found throughout South African and international kitchens, while her cooking school has gone from strength to strength.
- Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita
One of South Africa’s power women (and on Forbes’ list of most powerful women) is without a doubt Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita. Starting her career as an engineer at IBM in North Carolina, she soon relocated to Dallas before returning to South Africa. She then changed direction, switching to financial services and eventually the business sector. Nyambezi-Heita currently holds positions as Non-Executive Director at Old Mutual, the JSE, Bigen Africa, Universal Coal and Macsteel International. She holds both an MBA as well as a Masters in Engineering.
- Rebecca Franks
Move over boys, and make way for Rebecca Franks, Senior Android and Google Developer expert. Graduating Cum Laude from the University of Johannesburg in 2011, Franks earned an impressive 21 distinctions during her studies. One of her projects during her studies included a Robotic Guide Dog Prototype which could assist blind users with navigating through their environment. She is currently the Senior Mobile Developer for DStv online but also assists the Non-Profit organisation, Bookdash with mobile app development. This NPO provides African children’s books free to all readers and easy to translate. The books are written and illustrated by designers, artists, developers and writers who volunteer their services to these projects.
- Caster Semenya
Semenya is undoubtedly not your average South African woman. In addition to being our most famous female sprinter and world champion middle-distance runner, she has had to face a battering of questions, testing and worldwide criticism following gender testing by the IAAF. Though the results were never disclosed, the IAAF cleared her for participation in international competitions as a woman. She was subsequently included on the British Magazine, New Statesman’s list of 50 People that Matter in 2010 for casting a spotlight on our traditional expectations of women and how a changing world requires us to re-evaluate those expectations.
- Glynis Johns
Although the world knows Glynis Johns as a Welsh actress, dancer, pianist and singer, she was born in Pretoria, South Africa. She is most well known for her role in A Little Night Music on Broadway which saw her earn a Tony Award. She also starred in the Walt Disney musical film Mary Poppins as Winifred Banks. She also starred in TV series like Cheers and Murder, She Wrote and has won numerous awards throughout her life.
- Candice Swanepoel
Born in 1988 in South Africa, Candice Swanepoel became the youngest supermodel to make the Forbes 10 Top Earning Supermodel list in 2012. Spotted by a model scout in Durban flea market at the age of 15, she soon made it onto international catwalks and appeared in editorials in America, Italy, Britain, Spain, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China and Mexico. She’s modelled for internationally acclaimed designers like Fendi, Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce and Gabana, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, but is most famous for her work as Victoria’s Secret Angel from 2010. In addition to her modelling, Swanepoel is actively involved in the charity Mother2Mother devoted to the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
- Alison Botha
There’s hardly a woman in South Africa who can claim to have survived such a harrowing experience as Botha – coming out not only as survivor, but as inspirational speaker. In December 1994, Botha was abducted outside her house and taken to the outskirts of Port Elizabeth where they raped and assaulted her, disembowelled her with more than 30 stab wounds to her stomach and slashed her throat. She was left for dead but crawled towards the nearest road where she was eventually found by a car. Her survival has been called a medical miracle, but her courage and attitude after her ordeal are the truly laudable parts of this story. Through sharing her story and helping others, she has found meaning in what had happened to her and can help others overcome obstacles in their lives.