Located in South Africa, the Women’s Leadership and Training Programme (WLTP) is a small, but enduring, registered non-profit organization of women, promoting leadership through training of young African women and girls. It has a rich and diverse history over 37 years. Many of the staff members at various times have come up through the ranks of WLTP’s own programmes.

Where We Are

The Women’s Leadership and Training Programme (WLTP) is a small, but enduring, registered non-profit organization of women, promoting leadership through training of young African women and girls. It has a rich and diverse history over 37 years. Many of the staff members at various times have come up through the ranks of WLTP’s own programmes.

The two rural areas where the Women’s Leadership and Training Programme (WLTP) is making a difference, lie 2 to 3 hours south and west of Durban in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Beautiful indigenous forests and rivers surround the populated areas in the degraded Grassland Biome. The population of more than 40 000 people in each area, is organised into 20 Tribal Authorities who are responsible for land jurisdiction, and 4 Municipalities that are tasked with delivering services to the people.

This typical post Apartheid rural scenario of impoverishment persists, because rural development needs have largely been neglected.

WLTP’s Intervention

Empowering Girls through Leadership Development and Support

WLTP works with a core group of Teenage and Pre-teen girls (60 in each area) whom we train to become good, honest and ethical leaders.


Since 2010, WLTP has trained more than 2 000 girls and young women leaders who have impacted more than 50 000 youth in households and schools.

We build their self-esteem, encourage assertiveness and resistance to peer pressure. They have developed a Code of Conduct for themselves that promotes education, and behaviour that will prevent teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.

Strategic Gender Analysis

Patriarchy is very strong in the areas. It impacts girls when they are very young, reducing them to servitude and invisibility. WLTP helps girls and young women analyse how patriarchal cultural mindsets and practices retard their progress, helping them to build new attitudes and cultural norms. They grow into Young Women who are proud of their indigenous roots and are keen to take on careers that will build the African Continent.

Interconnectedness of Girls and Women with Nature and understanding the Climate Change Impacts in communities.

They know that life is dependent on the elements – water, soil, the atmosphere and fire- and that these together with biodiversity, have to be protected and kept in balance. WLTP projects relate to these elements:

Gender Work with Girls

Most Rural Girls are relegated to the domestic sphere where they assist their mothers or grandmothers to provide for the subsistence needs of the family. The girls are largely invisible. WLTP trains girls to take their rightful place as leaders in society, both at local level and globally. Since 2007, in a partnership with the international Grail, WLTP has sent girls to present their stories and perspectives at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) General Assembly in New York City.

In 2023, WLTP continued its work with pre-teen and teenage girls, meeting with 32 teenage girls and 23 pre-teens in Centocow, and 15 teenage girls and 28 pre-teens in Hlokozi. The girls showcased their leadership skills by making presentations on climate change and ecosystems, to science classes and their own classes and in some cases to the entire school. There was a setback when Alondwe Ngubo, the star of the international candidates preparing to attend the 2023 UNCSW, was denied an American visa. The theme was The Digital Divide. Ironically, Alondwe was also unable to do her on-line presentation because of an Internet problem.
Educators and parents attended a workshop in Centocow in August 2023, highlighting the progress WLTP girls have made. Their behaviour has improved and they are self-confident in resisting peer pressure. This must be seen in the context of the severe challenges schools and communities face, including teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, and dubious cultural practices.

WLTP acknowledges that challenges remain but has a firm commitment to empowering girls to assume leadership roles and work towards UN and NSP goals). With assistance from educators and parents, WLTP will continue to pursue its goals, ensure adherence to a strict Code of Conduct, and addressing issues affecting girls through collaboration and community engagement.

How we address the Climate Crisis

Girls have a deep connection with Water. It is their responsibility to provide water for daily use in households and for their own rituals. Communal taps that run dry and polluted water sources affect girls profoundly. They have to spend more time fetching water, running the risk of GBV as they move further and further from their homes to find clean water. Their school performance is compromised too. Girls therefore have a stake in ensuring clean water sources.

WLTP continue to empower girls through hands-on water testing using a modern kit provided by OUTA WaterCAN. Teams visit streams, rivers, and springs to check for pollutants like E. coli and phosphates. The girls aim to become advocates for improved water quality and access, spreading awareness about the importance of preserving water sources and making positive lifestyle changes in their community. They have shared their findings with Ward Councillors and Traditional Authorities.

To protect precious groundwater sources, WLTP is educating participants on safe pit latrine hygiene and waste management. By implementing innovative pilot projects, collaborating with environmental lawyers and traditional leaders to enforce water legislation, and by advocating for community involvement, WLTP is paving the way for a more responsible approach to water management.

“Contaminated water is killing large numbers of children under 5 every day when they get diarrhoea. Thinking of all the pollution in our streams makes me very scared. I will encourage my family and my peers to boil drinking water to prevent diarrhoea.” Amahle Zulu


In Hlokozi, a group of 32 adult gardeners has formed three cooperatives based on their location and completed the necessary paperwork for registration. Many members don’t have smartphones or laptops; we see the digital divide at work. Despite this, one of the cooperatives has started working on a large plot and is excited for their first harvest in March. They have organized four gardening events during the year where they learn about different vegetables and discuss the impacts of climate change on their gardens. The gardeners are keen to find appropriate seeds for crops that will adapt well to climate change.

In Centocow, the focus is on teenage and pre-teen girl gardeners who are encouraged to use agroecology to provide food for their families. Former WLTP trainer Carol Segal ran a workshop on Portulacaria (Spekboom) and generously donated over 50 Portulacaria plants and trees to the Centocow and Hlokozi gardeners. The workshop highlighted the medicinal and nutritional uses of the plant’s leaves and its ability to capture carbon.

Working with boys

We empower boys with leadership skills and engage them in discussions on gender equality, climate change, and biodiversity. Unfortunately, a lack of funding has limited consistent engagement with boys, but we did organise workshops in April and July, involving 23 boys.
We hope to revitalise Inhlabamkhosi this year, a boys and young men’s organization founded with WLTP’s support. Workshops held in Centocow and Hlokozi covered various topics, highlighting the interconnectedness of leadership, climate change, and gender-based violence. A lot of boys expressed personal growth, improved relationships, and a willingness to challenge patriarchal norms.

The workshops have encouraged boys to express their emotions and challenge traditional beliefs around masculinity. Participants shared insights on the importance of emotional expression and building healthy relationships. As boys open up and support one another, they aim to redefine masculinity and create a more inclusive and supportive environment.

“Talking about how you feel is part of growing up. We males have to make it a norm to talk about our feelings as we suffer so much in silence because we still live according to beliefs that were instilled in us by our forefathers.” Ntando Nxasane

Biodiversity and Climate Change

An indigenous (Zulu forest) has been cut down, soil and Grasslands have eroded into dongas (gullies) and birds no longer call in the large numbers and varieties within the living memory of older people. In this way Centocow and Hlokozi are no different from other parts of the world reported on by the scientists of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has heeded IPBES’s warning that 69% of the planet’s biodiversity has been destroyed and that a disastrous tipping point is imminent if this loss is not halted. Countries now have Targets to meet by 2030.

WLTP has chosen for the time being to concentrate on one aspect of biodiversity, that of conserving and increasing the presence of birds in Centocow and Hlokozi. Participants have planted trees to provide food and habitat. People are now aware of some of the iconic species that frequent their areas, the Southern Ground Hornbill, the Southern Bald Ibis and the Cape Parrot among other IUCN red-listed species.

Many girls and some boys are organised into bird clubs. They are equipped with books, binoculars and bird apps, and are increasingly fascinated by birds’ lives and how they intersect with those of humans. By visiting places like the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, young Bird Champions are reclaiming their heritage lost during the Apartheid Era when people of colour were barred from Protected Areas. Birders are learning to benefit from the Western science of Birding and to combine this with the indigenous Knowledge of bird names, beliefs and stories.

And at the same time, WLTP is promoting gender equity as girls who knew nothing about birds, are taken from their domestic milieu into the Wilderness to gain knowledge that often surpasses that of the boy birders, the reformed bird hunters and egg gatherers.


Our third theme is the restoration of Biodiversity where at the moment our main activity is birding. We have about 40 girls and 10 boys in two clubs and birding is their favourite activity. Birding is a particularly ‘untransformed’ hobby, and our boys and girls are making a difference in this field.

Girls have joined Professor Colleen Downs in the Annual Cape Parrot Count for many years in the indigenous forests in the Centocow area.
There are Ground Hornbills too in both Centocow and Hlokozi. We have had a partnership with Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project since 2016. Both Lucy Kemp and Nthabiseng Monama have worked with WLTP every year since then except during Lockdown. Lucy has met with the traditional leaders about becoming ground Hornbill custodians and Nthabiseng has educated hundreds of learners at a number of schools.

We have attended 3 Birdlife South Africa Flocks, “Flock in the Berg,” “Flock in Skukuza” and “Flock on the West Coast” where we won first prize for the best Speed Presentation.

We have been working in Centocow since 1994. Our Director, Sibongile Mtungwa, comes from there and was in our first workshop as a young woman. In Centocow we work with 30 Pre-Teen girls, 30 Teenage Girls, and 20 Young Women who are mostly in cities doing tertiary studies. And we also work with boys and young men when we have funding. There are boys in the bird clubs.

Seven of us, four staff members and three girls travelled to the Birdlife SA “Flock on the West Coast” at Langebaan, north of Cape Town. For some this was their third Flock and LAB. During the Learning About Birds (LAB) conference, WLTP won the prize for the best 5-minute Speed Talk. Trips such as this one are very educational and empowering. They are fed by and in turn feed into our biodiversity work on the ground in Centocow, Hlokozi and KwaMashu.