These days it seems that everyone is paying close attention to soccer's World Cup Competition in South Africa. So I thought - in the spirit of Self-Empowered Women everywhere - that you might like to meet an amazing woman named Rebecca Beka Ntsanwisi.
She was born in 1968 at Nkowankowa Village outside Tzaneen in Limpopo, a province of South Africa. Her father was an educator, and as a youngster she was encouraged to work hard at school and help improve her community (2: An Early Sense of Direction). After graduating from high school she attended the University of Venda, where she studied music (9: Music).
In the 1990s, she began working at a radio station, and soon became the head of its social responsibility program. She has been particularly effective at helping those in rural areas, especially impoverished people.
In 2003, Beka was diagnosed with colon cancer and two years later was wheelchair dependant (12: Hard Times). During her illness she worked with the Department of Health to a) form support groups for people with cancer and b) fight the belief in witchcraft that still exists in some communities.
During her own treatment, she often visited public hospitals and was saddened by how many elderly female patients were treated. Many of them seemed lonely, depressed and/or confused, but Beka felt that exercise (particularly soccer) just might give these women the lift they needed.
Today, the group that Beka founded in 2005 is known as Vakhegula Vakhegula (Grannies Grannies) and includes 35 players from 49 to 84 years old. The team has become so well known that it has been invited to come to America in August to compete in the Veteran's Cup (for teams with players 30 and over) in Lancaster, Mass. (13: More Than Meets the Eye).
After Beka's husband died the Grannies helped her deal with grief, and another player who lost eight of her twelve children found that the soccer team became an extended, supportive family. When the Grannies were young girls playing on a soccer team simply wasn't an option, but today - thanks to Beka - these women have an acceptable athletic outlet (8: Turning No Into Yes).
Beka has won numerous awards including (five tines) the Black Management Forum Limpopo Woman of Excellence Award, the Limpopo Achievers Award, the Premier's Award and the Nkowakowa branch of the South African National Civic Organization honored her for her work to help the helpless.
Today, Beka's cancer is in remission, but she considers her work for the poor and Grannies Grannies to be her legacy.
Looking forward to your comments...