Women of Rubies


Nana Mzila is a South African born  Construction Engineer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Managing Director of ISU Engineering & Projects (Pty) Ltd.

An engineering consulting and management company owned 100% by black women.

The company, ISU consulting is highly  competent in water resources development and property development.

They are also solution providers for municipal infrastructures, buildings and structures, transportation infrastructure and environmental solutions.

Nana Mzila holds a Master of Technology (MTech) in Construction Management and Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in Construction Management from Durban University of Technology.

She also owns a Master of Business Administration (MBA in Project Management from Texila American University Consortium and a National Diploma in Construction Management & Quantity Surveying from Mangosuthu University of Technology.

Her advice to female entrepreneurs who are just starting out is in her words,  “Show passion in what you do and be honest with yourself and customers/clients, network with other women-owned successful businesses.”

Dr Snowy Khoza, the Group CEO and previous Executive Chairperson of the Bigen Group.

She is a South African born seasoned executive, acknowledged strategist and development activist in the infrastructure development space.

In 2018, she received a Lifetime Achievement in Engineering from SA Professional Services Award sponsored by Sanlam.

She has been nominated to the G20 Business Women Leaders Taskforce. Also as one of the Africa CEO Forum Business Women Leaders Board members.

In 2017, she was recognized by the Standard Bank Top Women Awards for her leadership in Bigen Africa – receiving the Top Gender Empowered Infrastructure Development Award.

In 2016, recognized by Women For Africa Awards for being one of the most influential women in the continent.

In 2015, awarded the Top Performing Business Leader Award in South Africa.

In 2014, awarded the Lifetime Achiever’s Award in the Manufacturing and Engineering Sector and as one of Africa’s Most Influential Women.

During her tenure (2011-2016 and now since 2019 July) as CEO of Bigen Group, the company won over 30 business awards.

Dr. Nomkhosi Luthuli (PhD) is a 30-year-old South African born Academic, Corporate Speaker, Mentor and Advocate for Development.

She holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Regional Economic Development, Agglomeration Economics & the Aerotropolis and Master of Commerce (MCom) in Regional and Local Economic Development from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, a Bachelor of Social Sciences (BS) Honours in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town.

Dr. Nomkhosi Luthuli (PhD)

She is currently the youngest female Lecturer and researcher at the University of Kwazulu Natal’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

“I’m driven by breaking boundaries and changing beliefs on how things should be in society. I want to change the perception that aviation and planning for airport cities is a man’s terrain, and I hope to consistently challenge the generalisation that academia is for old people. 

“I know for sure that a determined mind excels whether male or female, young or old in any space of influence, and that there’s no sector too male-dominated and barrier of entry too great for me to break through and do the best I possibly can,” she says.

Lucy Quist is the first Ghanaian woman to head a multinational telecommunications company as the former CEO of Airtel Ghana.

She is a co-founder of the Executive Women Network.

She served as the Vice President of FIFA’s normalisation committee in Ghana.

Lucy is a chartered electrical and electronic engineer with a first-class honours degree from the University of East London.

She is also a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (UK) and holds an MBA from INSEAD in France.

She has decades of corporate experience with blue chip companies starting at Ford Motor Company.

She has held senior leadership positions at Millicom, Vodafone and Airtel.

Her career spans manufacturing, telecommunications, banking and automative industries in Europe and Africa.

She is a passionate advocate who believes in harnessing STEM to advance development around the world by ensuring greater participation of young people.

Lucy Quist is currently a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and the author of the book, ‘The Bold New Normal: Creating The Africa Where Everyone Prospers.’

Her accolades includes – CIMG Marketing Woman of the year, Telecom CEO of the Year, CSR CEO of the year and the Corporate Leadership Award.

She was listed in the second publication of 100 Most Influential African Women in 2020 by Avance Media.

Advocate Fadzayi Mahere is a 35-year-old Zimbabwean born inspirational and trailblazing – Lawyer, Politician and Human Rights Activist.

She has been vocal on social media challenging the Zimbabwe government on corruption and human rights issues.

She was among those arrested for taking part in Zimbabwe protests in 2020, with protesters accusing the government of corruption, human rights abuse and mis-governance.

Fadzayi  holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in Corporate Tax Law, Criminal Law & Human Rights Law from the University of Zimbabwe and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in International Criminal Law & International Commercial Litigation from the University of Cambridge, UK.

Fadzayi is also an international speaker on African development and has spoken at the Harvard African Development Conference 2017 and the University of Cape Town Zimbabwe Society. She regularly gives talks at schools on the importance of civic engagement by young people and women’s rights.

She ran for the post of Member of Parliament for Mt Pleasant Constituency where she contested as an independent candidate in the 2018 election.

Fadzayi has since joined Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, where she has been appointed the Shadow Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture.

She is currently the Spokesperson of the Zimbabwe’s main opposition party – MDC Alliance.

Despite of all the arrests and political intimidation Advocate Mahere continues to speak out in support of human rights and advocating for the rights of disadvantaged citizens in Zimbabwe.

Women all over the world are breaking boundaries and stereotype beliefs, from banking to the  tech sector, the Covid19 pandemic has made our gender more creative, and avail them the opportunity to think outside the box. Ncumisa Mkabile didn’t just break the glass ceiling with her success story, she also broke the  chain of male dominance in the Agricultural sector in South Africa.

This amazing farmer was forced  to shutdown her African cuisine  takeaway business during the thick of the pandemic in March 2020, and she needed to think of a plan, so she started selling chicken and doing door to door deliveries.

When she started out, she was buying it from a supplier but when she saw the demand was high she started growing her own and supplying people who would also like to start their own business.

She said she drew her inspiration from her family responsibilities: “I drew my inspiration from the responsibilities I have at home, because I need to provide for my son and mother,” says Ncumisa.

The inspiring farmer shares her story in this interview

Childhood Influence

I grew up in the rural areas in the Eastern Cape Cofimvaba with both parents and 5 siblings. I grew up exposed to farming but my family were not farmers I’m the first farmer in my family and that has also inspired my mother to start farming in the Eastern Cape.

Why I Started Selling Poultry

I had responsibilities at home I had to look for a way for me to generate income again, that is how we entrepreneurs think and operate instead of looking at the problem, we find a solution to the problem and I believe if you have a strong WHY it’s impossible for you to give up because your why keeps you going.

Inspiration Behind My Farming Career

Farming is a male dominated industry so I wanted to break that chain, I wanted the youth more especially females to see that they can also make a living out of farming.

My Day To Day Activities

I wake up at 06h00 just to plan my day and go to the farm to check if everything is in order, then if I have deliveries I do those deliveries. My day usually ends at 22h00 latest.

It’s very challenging more especially when you don’t have a mentor or someone to coach you because I gather my information from the internet, because I’m a risk taker. I decided to start and told myself I’ll learn along the way. Farming is like any other job if you love what you do and are passionate, you will make it work no matter what because I believe each and every business has it’s challenges.

A More Personal Challenge Currently
I don’t have an irrigation system I’m using watering cans.
Not having enough land to produce as much as I would like to produce to meet the demand of the community.
Not having transport to do deliveries

My Advice To Any Woman Looking To Start This Role?
Start small with what you have and gradually grow. Don’t wait on the government to fund but give the government something to work with.

One Woman Who Inspires Me To Be Better And Why?
Nomzamo Mbata.
Nomzamo is a risk taker, she goes after what she wants, and doesn’t limit herself. She’s showing every child that it is possible to reach your goals she’s just taking up space and living no stone unturned.

As a Woman of Rubies
What makes me a Woman of Rubies is the fact that I’m breaking generational curses, I’m showing the Youth in my community that it is possible and we are capable.


Prof Puleng LenkaBula is the first woman to be appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa (Unisa) in its 148-year-long existence.

She resumed her new position in January 2021.

She was the Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs and Community Engagement at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Before joining UFS, Prof LenkaBula was the Dean of Students at the University of Witwatersrand, where she was a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office (VCO) and the senior executive team.

Professor LenkaBula is of mixed decent (Lesotho and South Africa). She holds a PhD in Ethics (Theology and Philosophy) with specialisation in Ethics of the Economy, Ecology and Politics (Social Ethics) from the University of South Africa.

She obtained a Master’s degree (MTS) in Social Ethics from St Andrew’s College at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada and a Bachelor of Education with three majors in English, Theology, and Education from the National University of Lesotho.

Professor Puleng LenkaBula is a board member of local and international ecumenical and academic formations.

Her appointment is indeed commendable as a significant step towards transformation and inclusivity. The appointment of Prof LenkaBula to such as powerful and influential position at UNISA, will surely give the much needed momentum to the university’s ongoing transformation agenda, and initiatives.

. “The global knowledge arena does not have many women,” she says, “let alone black women in leading positions. For me, this appointment validates the sentiments of black girls and black boys who might not have had the confidence that they could be able to assume leadership positions in different sectors. They might be inspired to know that it is possible to become the leader of a university of our size and impact.” Prof  Puleng says.

Captain Kgomotso Phatsima, one of the first female military pilots in the Botswana Defence Force.

She is the founder and President of Dare to Dream – a social enterprise dedicated to the advancement of young women and girls in STEM Aviation and Aerospace as well as Entrepreneurship development skills.

She holds a Bachelor of Education in Mathematics from the University of Botswana, Basic Military Flying from the Flying Training School (Botswana Defence Force), Commercial Pilots Licence from Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana, Master of Science (MSc) in Strategic Management from the University of Derby.

“When I was growing up, I never had the chance to sit like this with a pilot or get into an airplane until I had the chance to fly one,” she said.

“After I qualified as a pilot, I sat down and thought: ‘What can I do to give the upcoming generation – especially those who grew up in a village, like me – an opportunity to do that?’.

“I started Dare to Dream to give back to the community and to try and open up their eyes to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to,” she added.


Hon. Emma Theofelus, Africa’s youngest appointed Deputy Minister. On 22 March 2020, at age 23, she was sworn in as Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology.

Hon. Theofelus is a Lawyer and Social Justice Advocate with a demonstrated track record of working in the legal services and advocacy industry.

She is also considered as one of Africa’s youngest Member of Parliament (MP). Before her life-changing appointment, she was employed as a legal officer in the Ministry of Justice where she dealt with drafting human rights reports as well as implementing the human rights strategy of the nation, among others.

She has also worked with various youth groups, such as Global Shapers Windhoek.

She shone in those ranks and her effort appear to have earned her a spot in the nation’s parliament.

She holds an LLB (Honours) in Law from the University of Namibia, a Diploma in Business Management from Amity University and a Diploma in Afrikan Feminism and Gender Studies from the University of South Africa.

As a teenager, she has served in various positions including – Deputy Speaker of the Children’s Parliament of Namibia.

Celebrate her greatness!

Ropa Mupambwa, inspirational and trailblazing Zimbabwean born female Footwear and Handbag Designer and founder of Celyn Roze, a footwear and fashion brand based in Calgary, Canada and sold globally.

Mupambwa moved from Zimbabwe to Canada when she was 12 years old.

Upon arriving in Canada, her first job was at the mall, because she was drawn to fashion, styling, and working with different fabrics.

She noted how women go through stages in life, from having children to growing older, and through these times, they need their heel height to change.

Women have always wanted the luxury of wearing any shoe they want in any heel size they prefer but most of the time, the heel sizes are restrictive.

Ropa Mupambwa aims to produce fashion staples such as her one shoe, five different heels under her fashion brand Celyn Roze to fill the gap.

In 2019, this led her to launch Celyn Roze with the vision of designing shoes in five different heel heights: flats, 3.5 cm, 6 cm, 9 cm, and 12 cm.

All Celyn Roze shoes have a signature orange sole and a cushioned insert so that wearers can benefit from the comfort of extra padding (something all women have been waiting for).

“I noticed that people would end up wearing the wrong heel height, or they just ended up not buying shoes because they don’t have the right heel height,” she said. I wanted to fill in the gap in this challenging day.” she said.

Mupambwa credits her mom, whose name is Celyn Roze, as a massive inspiration for her journey in the fashion industry.

“When I started designing and selling shoes, I wanted my brand to be different. I wanted something unique and to solve a problem as well,” she said.

Ropa credits her mother, who used to sew ready-to-wear outfits, and grandmother’s crocheting skills for her fashion sense.

“My mom has a sleek fashion background, and she did a little bit of tailoring back home,” she said. “She used to do ready-to-wear outfits and wedding dresses. She even made her own wedding dress.”

Ropa believes women should be free and confident to embrace whatever heel height they want according to the various life cycles they go through as well. Women should be allowed to feel beautiful in any heel height they wear.