Born in Mafikeng and raised in Grahamstown, Rachel Kolisi is “passionate about empowering and encouraging women to be strong in who and where they are now”.

Along with her husband, Siya, Rachel co-founded the Kolisi Foundation, which aims to change the narrative of inequality in South Africa by providing assistance and opportunities to people in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Rachel is also the co-owner of Rise, a movement dedicated to helping women live more purposeful lives through health and fitness. Aside from the philanthropy work she does, Rachel strives for balance and good in all facets of her life – home, work and community.

She has a deep desire to see all South Africans thrive and live out their dreams and ambitions. Through her humanitarian efforts, she has headed up a number of community projects which have brought about transformation for many different communities.

We sat down with Rachel to discuss the initiatives so close to her heart, how we can meaningfully uplift South African women and who she would love to have dinner with.

Please describe the purpose of both the Rise Women organisation and the Kolisi Foundation.

Our vision at Rise is to unite women in South Africa in a common cause. The organisation was birthed out of a place of desperation – we wanted to help women live more purposeful lives through health and fitness. We truly believe women live their best lives when they’re at their healthiest. Regarding the Kolisi Foundation, after the World Cup, we knew we wanted to leave behind a legacy – and through the work we’ve done so far we’ve been able to establish what we’d like to tackle going forward. 

As a working mother, how have you managed to survive lockdown?

Navigating being a working mother and lockdown has meant a lot of pressure and it’s been a bit of a juggling game. I make sure we separate work and play and that fun time is really fun. I wake up an hour earlier to ensure I have a bit of “me time” and that my days are well planned out. As much structure and organisation as possible is always a good thing.

Do you have any advice for maintaining a healthy home/work life balance especially in these times?

Taking care of yourself always needs to come first – you can’t pour from an empty cup. Lockdown is requiring a lot from all of us and it’s vital to make sure you’re taken care of. Another thing is to always try make sure your space is organised and you’ve got some sort of structure in terms of who is doing what around the house.

How do you think women can uplift each other?

I think one thing that COVID-19 has shone a light on is that it’s taught us all to take a step back and check in with people to see how they’re coping. We get so caught up in our own issues and it’s important to communicate with those we love – it goes a long way and it’s sustainable.

Do you have time to read? Who are your favourite authors?

I don’t actually have much time to read. But I recently borrowed a book while we were on one of our foundation trips that I loved. It’s called “Gang Town” and I just wanted to understand the local communities of the people I was working with. It was very informative. Currently I’m reading “Lioness Arising” by Lisa Bevere and that’s been a fantastic read.

What would you do with an extra hour in the day?

Probably sleep. I would gladly take an extra hour!

If you could have dinner with 5 people past and present – who would they be?
Joan of Arc, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock and Ayesha Curry.

By Fiona Wakelin and Maxine Volker

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