DreamGirls Academy is a South African organization founded by Ezlyn Barends. Ezlyn understood since a very young age the importance of education to empower individuals and she has created this organization with the goal to help South African women.
Could women who attend DreamGirls Academy become part of the change for a better life in South Africa, and empower other women too? We have reached Ezlyn Barends to find out more about her organization.
What inspired you to start the DreamsGirls Academy?
Ezlyn Barends: I’m originally from Kuils River, a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa. As a child, I used to stay up with my dad late at night while he studied part time after work: he was the first person in his family to complete an undergraduate degree and then a Masters.
Each time he would graduate, he seemed to get better opportunities and as a result, our standard of living would improve. Very early, in my little mind, it become clear that education and hard work would lead to more open doors in life. Because I had experienced this first hand, I wanted to share this with as many others as possible.
As I grew older, I then felt impassioned to work with young people and show them how through continuous learning and development, they would have the power to change their lives, as well as their families lives for the better and this then eventually influenced my life’s work.
What kind of activities does DreamGirls Academy do?
E. B. : DreamGirls Academy is a dynamic organisation centered around empowering girls and young women to economic prosperity. We use mentorship and education to support young females to move from economic dependency to self-sufficiency and become positive contributing members of a thriving society. We offer a wide range of female empowerment services in the form of structured mentorship programs, personal development coaching, empowerment workshops & events, financial study aid and outreach community projects.
Inspired, by a program in the United States, the organization was established in Johannesburg on 6 November 2011 by a group of young female professionals determined to make a difference in society by building the pipe line of young female talent & leaders. The Academy’s empowerment program focuses on encouraging young women to educate themselves, plan for the future, fulfill their potential, and become successful well-rounded trailblazers and change makers.
In addition, we recently launched a new program: DreamCode BootCamp a digital skills & coding training program to assist young women become more employable, as well as Advancing Girls in STEM which grooms young women to take up careers in the STEM field.
How many women have you helped so far?
E. B. : When we started out the first mentorship program in 2012, we started with just 30 girls. Now, since its inception, over 800 teen girls & young women across four cities in South Africa have been empowered through the organisation and graduated from the flagship year-long mentorship program.
What kind of impact do you have on your community?
E. B. : At DreamGirls, we focus on helping young women get to a point where they are economically active and able to contribute financially to the rest of their families as well. We also want the women that we help to inspire others and become advocates and champion in similar development projects in their own communities.
In that way, we are extending our impact into their various communities across our country. We’ve seen young women from our network start up their own businesses, NGOs and initiatives to make a positive impact in society.
What do you think needs to be done to have more women entrepreneurs and initiatives like yours in Africa?
E. B. : Africa has many great stories of women making a difference in their communities how ever more can be done through the following:
Share Experiences – Firstly, those who have walked the path of entrepreneurship or making a difference should openly share their experiences, key learning and challenges with as many people as possible. The more people see others who look like them, do what they want to do, the more they develop the confidence to go out and try their own initiatives.
Collaborate – Secondly, I believe that we need to collaborate more, especially across the continent. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel in each country when we can partner and work with other individuals and organisations who share a similar vision and values. In so doing, we can collaborate, leverage off each other’s strengths and work together towards greater goals.
Mindset– Lastly, I think more women need to develop a confident and prosperous mindset. There are many great entrepreneurs who came from nothing. The more women develop their self-belief and confidence, the more they will step up and act on what is placed on their heart.
What are your thoughts about the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)?
E. B. : I think the goals are always good to have in place to guide our activities and engagements. As DreamGirls Academy, we work towards achieving the SDG goal number 5: Gender Equality, through the education & economic empowerment of young women. We also focus on enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
In the Cover Picture: A group of women at DreamGirls Academy. Photo Credit: Guymab Photography for DreamGirls Academy
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