Honoured as one of South Africa’s most powerful women and named as one of 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, Wendy Luhabe’s pioneering spirit has inspired and enabled thousands of women in South Africa to become economic participants.

Luhabe seems to have dedicated her life to empowering women in business and its is for this reason that she will be one of the keynote speakers at Citadel’s annual Inspiration Indaba.

“Inspiration encompasses motivation, stimulation and encouragement and all my efforts have been directed at these drivers,” says Luhabe. “My initiatives empower women to participate in the economy, not just in business and not just African women. Our fledgling democracy and the responsibility of nation building inspired me to uncover prospects for the most disadvantaged class in society to participate for the first time in determining their financial destiny. The catalyst was the fact that early economic empowerment initiatives, such as Nail and Real Africa, did not include women.  This was a blessing in disguise because it gave us an opportunity to pioneer something revolutionary, and we did.”

Like so many other women before her, Luhabe was inspired by her mother. “She did not conform to the rules of her time and what she accomplished with very little was an inspiration. She took decisions that empowered her and enabled her to achieve her aspirations at a time when women were constrained and neglected their needs.”

Luhabe believes that empowering women empowers a nation. “I understand empowerment to mean women taking responsibility for their financial independence. When they become responsible stewards of resources who invest in the wellbeing of their families and know how to stretch finances resourcefully, the nation is empowered.”

Luhabe was one of a team of four who formed Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (WIPHOLD) in 1993, to revolutionise the participation of women in the economic landscape of South Africa.

“Most people were sceptical and cynical about the prospects of Wiphold, including women.

To mobilise 18,000 women (individuals and organisations) to invest R100million of their own money is pioneering by any standards,” she says.

“The fact that Wiphold still exists 21 years later, with a strong balance sheet and a successful track record, including a listing some years ago, bears testament to the contribution that women can make to society. Imagine 1000 Wipholds – the economy would be transformed overnight.”

Luhabe believes in giving others opportunities, and the Wendy Luhabe Foundation supports disadvantaged young black women who are bright, have potential, are hard working and disciplined, but do not have the financial resources to go to University. Some emerge  through social media and others through the Wendy Luhabe Scholarship that supports young women who wish to study commerce. She has also contributed to the Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP) to enable children of domestic workers to attend private schools, as well as the African Women Chartered Accountants Scholarship to increase the number of African women studying to be chartered accountants.

In 2002, Luhabe wrote Defining moments: Experiences of black executives in South Africa’s workplace.

According to her, becoming a Social Entrepreneur has by far been her defining moment and the most exciting adventure of her life.

“Being a social  entrepreneur gave me the opportunity to integrate my social science studies and my commerce degree and I created pioneering enterprises that enabled women to participate meaningfully in South Africa’s economy.  It also gave me the opportunity to mentor younger generations,” she says.

It seems as the sky is the limit for this powerhouse. She was honoured as being one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, which has given her an opportunity to interact with other remarkable women from different corners of the world who have broken through barriers, pioneered transformation and changed how women are perceived in society.

Wendy Luhabe will be speaking at the second Citadel Inspiration Indaba on 17 September 2015 at the Forum, Johannesburg. You can book your seat at inspirationindaba.co.za.

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