Short description

Supporting the development of youth through education and mentorship.


According to Lawrence Summers, a former World Bank Chief Economist, investing in girls’ education may well be the highest return on investment available in the developing world. Obstacles hindering girl’s access to education hinder social and economic progress. The third UN Millennium goals seeks to promote gender quality, stressing that gender disparity related to all levels of education should be eliminated by 2015.

Coming from disadvantaged communities where poverty, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and the lack of role models are the norm, many South African girls are unaware of the opportunities available to them. For those who are able to access these opportunities, they are met with the struggle of navigating their way through a transition to tertiary and working life. Studies have found that first generation students from low income and less educated families are most likely to drop out, hence the need to have mentorship in place to support their transition.



18twenty8 aims to empower young women from disadvantaged backgrounds through educational and personal development. The organisation is entirely led by young women who aim to empower other young women.

The organisation’s programmes target high school learners and tertiary students. At high school level 18twenty8 facilitates workshops for Grade 11 and 12 learners while at tertiary level, girls can become part of the Big Sister Little Sister programme.

The East Rand district education department provided 18twenty8 with a list of ‘yizo yizo’ or problem schools. The organisation consults with the school’s principals and life orientation teachers to design a programme that is specific to the issues at that school.

Workshops run between April and September. The number of times workshops are held depends on the number of Life Orientation classes given at each school. On average, workshops are held between one and three times a week.

Topics covered include self-empowerment, education, health and lifestyle as well as the environment. 18twenty8 partners with organisations and individuals that have relevant experience in a particular field for each specific workshop. For their health workshop called Hip and Healthy, 18twenty8 collaborated with the Ekurhuleni Department of Health to provide consultation to the girls, a karate dojo for the self defence module as well as an NPO working with women living with HIV.

For the Green Girls environment workshop the organisation partnered with the Southern African Wilderness College, Siyasebenza Waste Management and certified master life coach Judy Klipin.

The workshops also create temporary jobs by sourcing trainers in the areas where 18twenty8 works. 18twenty8 believes that these youth serve as ambassadors of their programme in the community and hence strengthen their relationships with communities. While the training that the trainers receive is not accredited, they gain work experience that is advantageous when applying for future jobs.

Accredited independent trainers are brought on board to facilitate some of the workshops. The organisation partners with NGOs for their workshops and where possible supports black-owned businesses regarding the supply of videography and project related services such as landscaping and farming, for example.  18twenty8 has a good working relationship with the district education department and has previously worked with the Department of Health and the Department of Women Children and People with Disabilities.

18twenty8 maintains a video diary where learners record their experiences before, during and after projects. Learners also carry out group assignments, write tests and complete evaluation forms on the modules. Life Orientation teachers provide feedback on their perceived impact of interventions.

The organisation believes that their workshops enrich learner’s experiences through educational tools that are more interactive and engaging than curriculum textbooks. They believe that the practical examples they provide are a complimentary addition to the curriculum.

The Big Sister Little Sister network is a mentorship programme which pools together professional women from a range of careers to serve as role models for girls coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Big sisters provide guidance and emotional support to little sisters as they pursue their tertiary education and employment. They are encouraged to meet at least once a month and keep in regular contact with each other via text messages. Both the big sister and little sister contribute R600 a year to be part of the network. This can be broken down into monthly payments of R 50.

At present there are fewer big sisters than little sisters. The matching process is done according to different criteria, including academic field. Matches also consider similarities in types of community work, hobbies, faith and also the practical consideration of how far the two live from each other.

18twenty8 has facilitated scholarships for some of its little sisters thanks to corporate and individual sponsorships.

What we like about this organisation

  • The organisation focuses on empowering girls. This is becoming an increasingly important developmental focus globally because of subsequent social and economic impacts.

What difference can your money make?

  • R10 000 will enable the organisation to cover basic admin expenses for one month
  • R250 000 could fund  one girl’s undergraduate degree or contribute 5% towards the 18twenty8 house
  • R750 000 would cover the cost of  high school workshops over one term at three high schools

Volunteering opportunities

  • 18twenty8 needs professional women to join the Big Sister Little Sister networks.