She took home the Social Media trophy at the 2021 Santam Women of the Future Awards in association with FAIRLADY and TRUELOVE. Here’s what Zandile Mkwanazi has been up to since then.

When coder Zandile Mkwanazi noticed how few female participants there were at the tech events she attended, she made a suggestion to her then employer: to host a female-only hackathon. They held the first one in 2014, and it has since become an annual event and has evolved into a non-profit organisation, led by Zandile. GirlCode, a platform for women looking to advance their skills in the tech industry, has since reached more than 6 000 women through training and outreach programmes.

‘The competition, the journey, the win – it’s been a truly humbling experience,’ Zandile says. ‘My goal was never to get recognition; it was to improve the lives of young girls. But when we do receive this kind of acknowledgment, it just reminds me that I’m on the right path. An award like this helps me to keep pushing to make an even bigger impact.’

Since Zandile was named Social Entrepreneur 2021, GirlCode has received a flood of interest from companies wanting to get involved as potential partners and sponsors. ‘Winning has really elevated our status as an organisation and proven to other companies that we are credible,’ she says.

‘Santam Women of The Future is exceptional at highlighting organisations that are doing good work. They are saying to the world, “Here’s a great initiative; we’re recognising them, and so should you!” It has taken us to the next level. The biggest thing you can ask for from a competition for entrepreneurs is exposure.’

Zandile is looking to take GirlCode to Cape Town, a move designed to extend their reach even further. ‘Growing our community is a key aspect of this organisation, and every move made towards that is critical.

‘I am overwhelmed by the people behind Santam Women of the Future, including the prize sponsors. Their insight and understanding of what one needs to advance a business are incredible. I’ve never come across a competition that has so much to offer the winners. I am looking forward to the mentorship part of the prize, because there are so many mistakes you can make as a young entrepreneur. To have time with someone who has the experience and can help you navigate the pitfalls – you can’t put a price on that.’