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Ms Jane Keen is a leader in the campaign for quality education and has also shaped the social landscape of our country through on-the-ground social work in some of South Africa’s poorest communities.
Ms Keen is currently the executive director of the South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP), a non-profit organisation running seven programmes that work with 2 400 young people at the early childhood, high school, post-matric and tertiary levels.
SAEP was founded on the core belief that education is the key to change, and that every child deserves access to it. Ms Keen joined the organisation as a volunteer in 2003 and developed it from a project run by volunteers out of its founder’s kitchen and dining room, into a R5 million organisation that employs 20 staff members and more than 100 volunteers every year.
SAEP is making an impact and continues to grow under her direction through programmes that give learners the individual attention, guidance, support and enrichment they don’t receive during their normal school day. This, while South Africa’s education system is in crisis with only one third of learners who start school eventually graduating, with even lower success rates in informal settlements.
She has tackled the challenges of SAEP and education with the same energy as when she took a stand for marginalised children’s rights during a time when few people were willing to do so. Her career began in social work with the Child Welfare Society travelling to the farms outside of Cape Town in Philippi to meet the needs of the area’s most desperate, impoverished children.
In the 1980s, she helped establish and ran some of the first shelters for street children in Cape Town, including The Homestead, Ons Plek, Margaret’s House and Patrick’s House.
She then took op the fight against domestic violence and co-founded the NICRO Women’s Support Centre, one of the first centres to offer holistic support, legal advice and counseling to abused women in Cape Town. She still supervises social workers and lay counselors through the Catholic Welfare and Development and other organisations.
Leading the shelter movement for street children in apartheid-era Cape Town was anti-establishment, not a comfortable career choice, and testament to her strong convictions. A similar strength of principle led Jane, in 2010, to institute a lawsuit against the National Lotteries Board (at the time sitting on R6 billion) to reconsider the many applications made by SAEP over the years, which had been denied on spurious grounds.
The case was finally won, after appeal by the Lottery, and set an important precedent for all NGOs struggling for money and unable to get their applications to the Lottery dealt with within a reasonable timeframe and manner.
Three finalists have been announced in each of the five categories of the 2012 Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award.
The names of the judges who will select this year's Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year, have been announced.
As the 2012 Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award enters its judging phase, the winners of 2011 tell of how they are utilizing the prize money received from the Shoprite Group of Companies, to enhance their work and build a better future for the people of South Africa.
Women of the Year Office
Tel: +27 21 980 4285 / 1570
Fax: +27 21 983 5222