Girl Ignite helps girls prepare for bright future


girl-ignite---textLerato Motsamai,founder of Girl Ignite in blue, participating in the laughter workshop during the launch. (Image: Ray Maota)

Three women are making sure they help to mould the futures of young women from underprivileged backgrounds through time spent with them cycling, talking life and teaching entrepreneurship.

Girl Ignite was launched at Kwena Molapo Comprehensive High School, in Lanseria, in the north-west of Johannesburg, earlier this month. It was the culmination of a year of a pilot project started by Lerato Motsamai, the founder of Girl Ignite, and her two directors, Leeko Nkala and Linky Morato.

According to Motsamai, Girl Ignite Africa seeks to be a world-class, two-year programme in which the girls share in a variety of focused disciplines that will equip them for the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities of life. “With the aid of specialist teaching in leadership, entrepreneurship and participation in the prestigious President’s Youth Award, the benefits ripple out far beyond the walls of the classroom, from improved lives, to stronger communities and more competitive economies,” she said.

The launch started with a laughter workshop by Anjana Lala, a laughter coach, to get the girls to understand the healing powers of laughter. “We need to learn to laugh together and not at each other,” Lala explained. “I want you to be happiness leaders.”

She would like to empower the girls and inspire them through laughter. “I believe laughter is a natural gift that naturally de-stresses us and brings joy to our lives,” she added.


Nkala’s role in Girl Ignite is to conduct the entrepreneurship modules for the girls. She said: “We teach them about the basics of conducting a business, were the first year is the incubation phase. [During this] we help them to develop a concept, a business model and a business plan.”

Girl Ignite also raises funds so that the participants can see their business models come to life. It also organises markets where they can test their products or services on a target audience.

“All of this we do to skill them and equip them with the necessary tools they will need in life, whether they are employed in corporate, they are running a business unit or become entrepreneurs,” said Nkala.


During the pilot year, the directors wanted to cram many modules into the programme while also trying to balance their own lives. It proved impossible, and the year allowed them to fine tune the balance for the programme.

“We had a group of 28 girls when we started Girl Ignite in 2014,” Motsamai said. “We saw the impact it had on the girls, firstly on their academics, confidence levels and their passion to cycle.”

But there were also challenges. “We weren’t running the programme by ourselves as we collaborated with a few specialists in the different fields of the programme. We found that everyone had commitments and we would get cancellations last minute,” she said.

Hosting the programme every Saturday was an issue as collaborators were busy. As a result, the programme has been cut to two Saturdays every month. “We also didn’t have a budget to transport the girls from the different schools in the Diepsloot area and we overlooked the fact that they had to be fed [for the programme] to get the maximum output from the girls.”


The end of the pilot year was a time for reflection. The trio has cut down the number of modules and streamlined the programme to focus on leadership and entrepreneurship. The President’s Awards has been included, as it encourages the participants to be good members of the community.

“We are now concentrating on one school, Kwena Molopo, and we can have a better understanding of the impact we are having,” Motsamai said.

There was also no selection process at first, which affected the commitment from the girls. “This year we had a selection process and they completed an orientation and we made them fill in an application form asking them three questions: who they are; what are their aspirations and the things they want to do for their community; and lastly, if they were to start a business what kind of business they would start today.”

This ensures the participants know they are selected on merit, prompting them to commit to the programme wholeheartedly.

“Our overall vision is to build a leadership academy for the girls that teaches entrepreneurship and leadership,” Motsamai concluded.