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The first South African YWCA was established in Cape Town in 1886, and thereafter in Durban and Port Elizabeth in 1889. The Movement spread to other regions which collaged and formed the National Council of the YWCA of South Africa.


In 1908 the Organisation affiliated to the World YWCA through its National Council.   There were no black members in the picture at the time. In 1931 the National Council of the YWCA of South Africa felt it could not accept the inclusive and ecumenical basis of the World YWCA and disaffiliated. The Durban and Port Elizabeth reaffiliated with the World YWCA as a separate association. Hence, we have YWCA of South and Central Africa and World affiliated YWCA of South Africa; later joined by Johannesburg, Free State and others.


The YWCA in South Africa was led by luminaries such as:

Ms. Madie Hall Xuma, who facilitated the affiliation of YWCA-SA to the World YWCA and became the first president. Subsequent to that she continued working with luminaries and forbearers such as those identified below, but not limited to:

  • Dr Ellen Khuzwayo,
  • Mildred Malie,
  • Victoria Mahamba Sithole (Chitepu),
  • Edith Dlamini (Grenville-Grey),
  • Martha Mothibatsela,
  • Muriel Lester,
  • Kama,
  • Linda Guzana,
  • M. Lingalo,
  • S. Phayane,
  • N. Ndamse,
  • N. Makuzeni,
  • Mrs Haley,
  • Mrs Ndlovana,
  • Virginia Gcabashe,
  • Hermina Mpakanyane,
  • Nonia Ramphomane,
  • Oshadi Phakathi-Mangena,
  • Benedicta Mhlambi,
  • Irene Xaba,
  • Joyce Seroke,
  • Dr Ellen Blekie,
  • Brigalia Bam,
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
  • Thoko Didiza


Dr Brigalia Bam, Dr Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka and Thoko Didiza were sent to World YWCA (Geneva) for youth leadership training by YWCA-SA where their leadership skills were sharpened. The leaders then were willing to volunteer their services for the betterment of the communities.


The YWCA contributed a lot towards fighting for democracy in South Africa working alongside with SACC and other organisations. A number of them were deployed in key government positions post 1994.


The World YWCA continued supporting member associations since many of our young members went for leadership training in Geneva. The last attendant was a young woman from YWCA Free State in 2014.


They also funded programmes under ‘Power to Change’, that member associations had to apply for. YWCA-SA was funded in 2013/14 financial year for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, HIV and AIDS and Young Women in Leadership.


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