Ubuntu: The Spirit of Philanthropy

by Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Co-Chair, Maverick Collective, Co-Founder & CEO, Motsepe Foundation @MotsepeFoundtn

There is a word in the Nguni language called “Ubuntu,” which means, “I am because we are.” It is a spiritual concept that brings meaning to the burning sense of belonging each person feels and compels us to connect to our inner personal power for the benefit of others.

The Motsepe Foundation was established with this spirit, which we aim to instill amongst stakeholders locally, regionally and internationally.

Poverty, discrimination and inequality erode this innate sense of togetherness. They may disparage the sense of belonging women and girls have in society, limiting their agency to improve their welfare and that of their communities.

Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe speaks after a panel discussion ahead of Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 at Sandton Convention Center on November 30, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100)

A 2018 report by the World Bank Group found that an estimated $160 trillion of wealth is lost globally in lifetime earnings due to gender gaps. In sub-Saharan Africa, this figure is $2.5 trillion. In response to this financial inequality, the Motsepe Foundation advocates for gender-responsive budgeting initiatives which ensure that national budgets align to the needs of whole populations.

The Motsepe Foundation measures its impact through the strengthening of social cohesion and the liberation of women and girls. These both contribute to the creation of a truly prosperous society. With a focus on youth, the Foundation unlocks girls’ potential to achieve social, economic and political agency. Our programs ensure that there are more women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), social entrepreneurship and sports; we also work hard to make their voices heard in social and economic discourse.

The Motsepe Foundation has committed to the Giving Pledge, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through local and global partnerships with the Department of Education of South Africa, Harvard Kennedy School, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the Milken Institute, Maverick Collective and others, we aim to find creative solutions for societal change.

This change happens when the needs of women and girls are addressed. Their needs are not unique, only overlooked. Each year, the Motsepe Foundation hosts a Summit to unite the voices of women and girls. Their diversity ignites valuable discussions around new challenges and solutions which we collectively commit to supporting, financially and otherwise. To invest in women and girls is to invest in their access to choice and to uplift their individual power.

In every community, and for each individual whose lives were touched by the Foundation, we see a circular motion of Ubuntu inspiring the empowerment of thousands of other people.

To be a humanitarian is to consider our individual power through the lens of humanness, and aim for the achievement of oneness. Through philanthropy, as in Ubuntu, we reimagine the world as a place of peace, compassion, respect and justice. But to birth this new world requires systemic transformation that facilitates women into spaces where they are misrepresented, and rallies for the adoption of a bold vision where no one is left behind.

Hear more from Dr. Moloi-Motsepe at the Women Deliver 2019 concurrent session, “The Power of Money: Investing in Girls & Women” on Tuesday, June 4 at 3:00pm at the VCC West Plenary Hall.

This article appears in PSI’s Impact magazine, released in tandem with Women Deliver 2019, as part of an ongoing conversation about putting #PowerInHerHands.

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