Girls With Wiings
Koinonia Baloyi, 32, is the founding director of the NGO Girls With Wings, which distributes sanitary pads to homeless women. She says there is a drive in South Africa to end period poverty to keep girls in school but underprivileged women are overlooked and the NGO wants to address this gap. What started with the small idea of buying one extra pack of pads for one woman in need each month has, in seven years, grown into supporting 500 women and is creating employment opportunities for homeless women. Koinonia’s work includes the strategic and operational management of the organisation, advocacy and building relationships with partners, businesses, donors and other stakeholders. She organises promotions and events and raises funds. She even ran the London marathon in 2017 and the Cape Town marathon in 2018 to raise funds and advocate for Girls With Wings. Koinonia, who has a Bcom in business management and Bcom honours in finance, has been recognised for her work. In 2020, she was selected for the 100 Shining South African Stars for philanthropy and for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for civic leadership in 2023. She says Thuli Madonsela’s words, “As an African woman, I’ve learned the importance of self-definition and living purposefully. It is vital that every girl determines, as early as possible, who she is and what her contribution to humanity will be,” have inspired her. In 2022, Koinonia launched another Girls With Wings project — its own range of sanitary pads. Homeless women label and package the pads and the profit made from the sale of these pads goes towards paying the women.
- Bcom Business Management, University of Pretoria
- Bcom honours in finance, University of Cape Town
- Ran the London marathon in 2017 and the Cape Town marathon in 2018 to raise funds and advocate for Girls With Wings
- Selected as a top three finalist for the Fabulous Women, Humanitarian Award in 2019
- Selected for 100 Shining South African Stars for philanthropy in 2020
- Selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for civic leadership in 2023
Growing up, my parents instilled in us the value of loving what you do, working hard and dreaming big. Watching them as a child when I visited them at their place of work and how they loved what they did and respected their colleagues inspired me to invest in myself and in others, to take risks, to try, to never give up and keep fanning my passion for my work and community empowerment.
Don’t be afraid to start young and to start small. Too often we see ourselves as insignificant to make a big difference. But reflecting on Girls With Wings seven years in, something that started with a small idea of buying one extra pack of pads for one woman in need, and how it has grown into supporting 500 women a month and creating employment opportunities has been the encouragement to me that small is a great place to start.
I would like to see South Africa have the resources, capacity and ability to invest, equip and empower the young generation. We will have moved forward as a country from this current state of survival mode, corruption and the looting of funds. We can provide free education, and invest in small business and entrepreneurship ventures that will drastically reduce the youth unemployment rate and create alternative employment opportunities. We will see more young ethical people stepping up into positions of leadership in government and the public and private sectors.