Gone are the days when women have to think they are confined to certain careers. For Women’s Month, we introduce you to six inspirational South African women who are defying gender stereotypes and reaching for their dreams.

Candra Shanice Pedro – Shipbuilder

Candra (26) has been making national news headlines after she recently became the first woman in the country to qualify as a shipbuilder. She gained a qualification in technical drawings and then successfully applied for an apprenticeship with Armscor, which she passed with flying colours. Candra has proved that women can make waves in this male-dominated field.

Carmen Stevens – Winemaker

Back in 1995, Carmen Stevens became the first woman of colour to graduate as a winemaker. She has been a winemaker for 24 years now and is the founder of the first 100% black-owned winery in the country – Carmen Stevens Wines. She also runs an NPO that provides food to more than 10 000 learners across the Western Cape daily.

Ria Ledwaba – Football executive

Ria Ledwaba made history when she was appointed as the first female vice-president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) in 2018. She fell in love with football at the age of 15 when she watched her brothers play. She followed her passion, going on to form her own football club (Ria Stars) and then being appointed to SAFA’s executive committee.

Thembiso Magajana – Computer programmer

Thembiso is currently the owner of Social Coding, a non-profit organisation which educates disadvantaged girls and women about computer programming. She originally studied accounting, but took an interest in app development and soon discovered that women (black women in particular) were barely represented in the tech industry. She did a number of online courses to learn how to code, and today her organisation teaches thousands of girls about science and maths through computer programming.

Ness Knight – Explorer

South African-born Knight is a perfect example of pushing the boundaries of what is possible. The adventurer has broken numerous records in extreme swimming, paddling, cycling and running. She became the first female to paddle over 1600 consecutive miles, and the first to swim the whole length of the Thames River. She has cycled across the United States and the Namib Desert, and once ran 15 marathons in 15 days.

Dr Adriana Marais – Physicist and technologist

Dr Marais is a theoretical physicist who is breaking new ground in the fields of technological innovation and space research in Africa. She was the Head of Innovation at SAP Africa between 2017 and 2019, and is currently the director of the Foundation for Space Development – an organisation which promotes space exploration through education and science. Marais is also one of only three South Africans to be an astronaut candidate with the Mars One Project, a team of 100 people who have been selected to one day establish a human colony on our neighbouring planet.

If you’re a woman, then you should realise that you can be whatever you want to be, just as these six highly successful ladies have shown. All you need to do is follow your passions and chase your dreams!

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