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Did you know that only 3% of CEOs of JSE-listed companies are women? Or that in 2009, 24% of girl children died of abandonment, compared to 15% of boy children?

These statistics give a glimpse of the reality facing South African women – and that’s before we consider the frightening frequency of gender violence and femicide in this country. This is why, in 2017, The CEO SleepOut elected to shed a spotlight on women’s issues and empowerment by hosting the Special Chapter of The SheEO SleepOut, inviting the country’s foremost female business leaders and influencers to sleep overnight at the Women’s Prison at Constitution Court on Tuesday 8 August 2017. The Event successfully raised R2 707 375.00 for the Door of Hope, an organisation which provides shelter for abandoned children.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela and MP Susan Shabangu, former Minister of Women and now Minister of Social Development were among the 57 women who gathered at the Constitution Hill on the eve of Women’s Day – a fitting place and date for an event aiming to create a forum to spark dialogue around the many challenges facing South Africa’s women. These discussions covered topics ranging from teen pregnancy to illegal abortion, the impact of gender violence on the economy, the rights of foreign and undocumented mothers and children, the need for a safe haven law given the prevalence of unsafe abandonment, and adoption as a child protection strategy. The Event proved prescient in its consideration of these issues, as it would be less than six months later that Oprah Winfrey brought them to the world’s attention as part of her acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards; a speech which also ensured that the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, protesting woman abuse, were given the profile they deserve.

Critical though these conversations are, they were secondary to the Event’s main aims: to help South Africans understand and develop empathy for what life is like for the homeless, and to raise funds for The CEO SleepOut’s Primary Beneficiary for 2017, the Door of Hope. The initiative’s Primary Beneficiaries are selected every year based on their ability to uphold the pillars identified as crucial for the sustainable integration of the homeless back into society; namely, Shelter, Nutrition, Health, Education and Community. The Door of Hope was appointed by The CEO SleepOut Trust as the Primary Beneficiary of The SheEO Sleepout because it not only supports these aims; as an organisation which welcomes abandoned children, but seeks to integrate them into loving homes and ensure they thrive, it also speaks directly to the Event’s ultimate objective of empowering women and children.

A total of R5 414 750.42 was raised through the Event, with R2 707 375.21 handed to the Door of Hope to be used for Legacy Projects. These included rebuilding Baby House Two; the shelter where mothers in crisis are encouraged to leave their infants. The building is central to Door of Hope’s operations, but had become structurally unsound; a budget of R1 200 000.00 was therefore allocated to ensure it is able to house the 19 babies (or more) that are usually accommodated in the home at any time. An additional R1 000 000.00 was allocated to building two houses, intended as homes for abandoned children who have not yet been adopted. Door of Hope’s vision is to build a village of such homes; thus, a final R507 375.21 was earmarked for the installation of the village’s infrastructure, including water, electricity, sewerage and roadways.

The funds raised through The ShEO Sleepout were supplemented by several Satellite Events hosted by business, groups and schools around the country. These included the Sympathy Sleepout, the South Africa SleepOut, and the School SleepOut.

Added to this, Participants in The SheEO SleepOut donated goods – including women’s and children’s clothing, food packs and books – to the value of R1 million. These were distributed to a number of Gauteng-based Satellite Beneficiaries associated, all of which are associated with the care of abandoned babies: Impilo, Angel’s Baby Sanctuary and the Refilwe Community Project. Further donations were made to the Event’s Secondary Beneficiary, Gift of the Givers, to be distributed to various homeless communities.

The final impact of The SheEO SleepOut is being currently being assessed by IQ Business, The CEO SleepOut Trust’s impact stakeholder. This information will be disseminated to the media across various social media and online in the form of the 2017 Impact Narrative in due course.

South Africa’s women and children need solutions – fast. The SheEO SleepOut showed how much we can achieve by working together – and if we did this in one night, how much more could we achieve over a sustained period? After all, working together, each of us can become an oasis of compassion.

These aren’t just words, neatly packed to sound helpful “in theory”; these are the very real concepts on which the global movement of positive change is built.
It’s with these ideas that The Philanthropic Collection home to The CEO SleepOut is turning old world philanthropy on its head;
getting business leaders to sleep on the streets to raise funds and gain empathy for the homeless in The CEO SleepOut Event;
and sparking conversations that truly lead to worldwide action.


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