My name is Amonge Sinxoto; I am a 19-year-old social entrepreneur, activist, and public speaker from Johannesburg South Africa. The truth is that four years ago, I never could have imagined myself as any of these things or nevermind someone who could inspire people. I was just a girl going through teenage angst, battling with extremely low self-esteem and social anxiety. My biggest concerns were how I related to peers and getting good grades, in that order. But then I started to look at the world around me, thinking about whether I was happy with it. My conclusion was that I wasn’t. This pushed me to establish Blackboard Africa, a youth-led forum for young voices to be amplified and empowered. It was about creating a space for young Africans to share their experiences, their frustrations, and think about how to go about tackling them. It was a platform that I thought was extremely important, but I couldn’t bring myself to share my own story. I was happy to write articles and post on social media, but I was the last one to raise my hand when it came to representing the organization. My co-founder Zingisa is like my older sister. I always admired how easily she seemed to interact with people she’d never met before, and her outgoing and inviting personality. Everyone who I looked up to that was super brave and confident was much older than me. I guess my mind made the connection that being bold was something I’d be able to do when I was grown. Little did I know…
Blackboard Africa started to gain momentum, and people were excited to see young people initiating the change that they wanted to see. Soon media houses wanted to hear from us, the founders of Blackboard Africa. In the first interview we ever did, I swear you would have thought I was a mute. I just about worked up the courage to say my name and “thanks for having us” when the interview was over. Afterwards, one of our mentors shared some feedback. To Zingisa, she shared advice on how to better represent the organization going forward. I braced myself, and to my surprise, she continued to talk about other things. A sigh of relief, I thought, it wasn’t till later that I realized she was ignoring me. I finally asked her to address me too, to which she replied, “Oh, so you do have a voice?” She asked how I advocated for platforms that amplify youth experiences and stories yet couldn’t manage to use my voice. I was reminded by a Michelle Obama quote that says “If you’re afraid to use your voice, give up your seat at the table.” On that day I too was reminded that it was my duty, to share my light with the world. All my insecurities blocked me from seeing that it’s been people like her who have helped me see greatness within myself. I am the leader, innovator, change maker and motivator that I am today because of those who went out of their way to fan my flame.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve had time to think back to all the individuals who have poured into my life. I reflected on their contribution to how I perceive myself, and my greater understanding of my responsibility as a leader. I began to think about the other young women in South Africa, and how our social context is continuously tearing us down. The looming reality that we aren’t safe from rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, femicide, or violence is one that girls across South Africa have had to deal with their entire lives. This, coupled with societal norms that socialize us to not think or talk positively about ourselves, has created a breeding ground for self-doubt and lack of confidence in leading. With all these odds stacked against us, it would be irresponsible not to do everything we can to build each other up.
This train of thought inspired the Fan Her Flame movement. Essentially there is a spark, and a light that is already ignited within us as young women. So what we need to do now is make sure that we never forget it! The movement is about accelerating and amplifying the flames within every woman around us. Go out of your way to make someone else’s light shine even brighter. Set the world on fire! This movement has manifested in Fan Her Flame, the lead-HER-ship program that equips young girls to identify their why and take the world by storm. With this program, Blackboard Africa reminds young women of their responsibilities as leaders in our nation and enables them with practical tools that will help achieve their purpose. The program covers
- Finding purpose
- How to be better leaders
- Creating an action plan to help you achieve your goals
- Using the power in your voice
The 2020 cohort consists of a group of girls from the Nthetelelo foundation, a girls centre in Sitlwetja, an informal settlement outside of Alexandra township, and the second group of girls from the Ikageng Itireng Aids Ministry, a children’s aid centre in Orlando West, Soweto. The girls are from vulnerable communities, and face much adversity. We are so blessed to be able to fan their flames and have them do the same for us.
If this initiative is something that you would like to get involved in, there’s three ways to do it.
- The first is to sponsor a Fan Her Flame Personal Care Kit at R500 a bag. Blackboard Africa is fundraising to ensure that each girl walks away with these essentials. The Kit contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary pads, deodorant, roll on, soap, lip balm, face cloth, surgical gloves, mask, notebook and pen, hair comb, lotion, chocolate, underwear, face shield, and a Fan Her Flame t-shirt. You can find all the details to donate on Blackboard Africa’s social media pages (Instagram: @blackboard_africa, Twitter @blakboard_africa, and Facebook: Blackboard Africa) or click Donate on our website www.blackboardafrica.com .
- Secondly, we think it is so vital that this is a movement that can travel across the country. All young women need to have their lights set ablaze. Blackboard Africa would love to take this program nationally. If you would like to contribute to making this happen, visit our website: www.blackboardafrica.com and click DONATE, every cent counts.
- The third way that you can get involved is by sharing the movement across your network, fanning the flames of all the incredible women in your life, not forgetting the hashtag #FanHerFlame.