'Break the Bias' - Celebrating Women at USAID Southern Africa

Speeches Shim

Thursday, March 31, 2022


Nomea Masihleho: Team Lead and External Government Engagement

"People Making A Difference"

USAID’s 33-year veteran in South Africa, Ms. Nomea Masihleho, has worked patriotically, professionally and compassionately to influence her country of birth’s development. 

Joining the U.S. Government’s humanitarian agency in 1989, Nomea promoted human rights for all, democracy, and good governance principles within community groups while South Africa was still ruled legally by apartheid. 

South Africa was politically turbulent at the time, with Nelson Mandela and other liberation struggle leaders still imprisoned. Those associated with activities to alter the country’s minority domination were repressed and harassed by apartheid security police at the time Nomea undertook her USAID tasks. Her brave and noble efforts enabled a significant segment of the population to learn democratic practices and voter education in a country where the majority of the citizens had been deprived of such rights all their lives. 

After the country’s world-celebrated open elections in 1994, Nomea became USAID South Africa’s Unit Leader for Civil Society. Her programs aimed at promoting a healthy balance of competent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and leaders, while other members of USAID’s Democracy and Governance team directly supported the professional development of the South African Government’s justice portfolios. 

Nomea’s responsibilities initially included assessing vulnerable groups within South African society and finding ways to develop and strengthen advocacy groups to help address their particular needs. Her work thus covered gender discrimination, child abuse, victims of domestic violence, juvenile and youth offenders, and other people at high risk of causing or suffering from conflicts. 

She pressed on to help other segments of civil society as well. Her activities enabled the non-profit sector to learn how to raise funds to sustain their operations that included tax deductible charitable donations. She generated and oversaw conflict resolution workshops and supported several institutions that promoted political tolerance, stability, peace, progress, and transformation. She enabled the country’s media community to reinforce their integrity and skills by supporting investigative journalism training and conferences. 

For the past six years, USAID has deployed Nomea’s skills and welfare background to address the country’s HIV and AIDS epidemic. She manages PEPFAR-funded programs associated with care, treatment and support, as well as HIV counselling and testing. 

Some of the powerful lobby and action groups in South Africa that have benefited from Nomea’s technical assistance include Child-Line, Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Program; SANGOCO (South African NGO Coalition); the Non-Profit Partnership; the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust; Institute for a Democratic South Africa (IDASA); WITS and RHODES University Investigative Journalism, Engender Health; BroadReach Healthcare;  and the Foundation for Professional Development.

Multiply Nomea Masihleho’s two decades serving South Africans through USAID and she has likely helped to improve the welfare and potential of millions of her compatriots.




Shireen Strauss: Snr Program Development Specialist


Shireen joined USAID/Namibia in August 1992 at a time when the Mission just embarked upon project design, while engaging with the government of Namibia to negotiate the two primary Strategic Objective Agreements (SOAGs) the Basic Education Support, and Living in a Finite Environment (CBNRM) projects that would later become the flagship programs of USAID/Namibia.

She worked as a project backstop to various technical offices in USAID before she joined the Program Office in 2000 where she gained experience as a budget specialist and later progressed to the level of Senior Program Development Specialist, a position she has held until present.

Shireen believes in equality and justice for all and has always stood up for those without a voice. She served as FSN Representative for many years focusing on advancing the interests of local staff in Namibia.

She holds the following educational qualifications: National Diploma in Public Administration (Namibia University of Science & Technology), Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations (UNISA), Honors Degree in Journalism (cum laude) (NUST), a B.Phil. (Post-grad) in Sustainable Development (cum laude) (Stellenbosch University); Post-graduate Diploma in HIV/AIDS Management (cum laude) (Stellenbosch University)  and a Masters in HIV/AIDS Management (cum laude) (Stellenbosch University).





Keitumetse Bikimane: Budget and Financial Analyst

"Inclusiveness paved my career"

I have grown greatly both personally and professionally from the time I joined the US Government in 2002 as an Administrative Assistant with CDC Botswana.  Today, 20 years later, I am a Budget & Financial Analyst with USAID. I joined as a single young woman with no children and now, I’m married with three children. I am happy to have the opportunity to work this long in a diverse yet inclusive environment. I’m also thankful to work for an organization that takes care of its employees, be it the influenza vaccine, or the latest COVID-19 vaccine. We have equitable access to safe and effective vaccines including boosters.

I have been fortunate to obtain professional development opportunities both locally, regionally, and internationally which helped me excel in my career. Additionally, I also had the opportunity to serve as the Foreign Service National Senior Advisor Corp, PEPFAR Budget Specialists/Financial Analysts at the Regional Health USAID Office in South Africa for 2 months.   

I would not have made it this far in my career alone. Teamwork and building relationships have always been key in my journey. I work with a small, yet very supportive team in Botswana. Together we move mountains in the PEPFAR world tackling the ever-changing guidance and complex Country Operation Plan database tools. Thanks so much to the Regional Team in South Africa and the Office of HIV/AIDS in Washington DC who provide us with technical support. I have always been blessed with great management and supervisors who value and reward extraordinary performances not only through a thank you note, but also through formal award recognition which further motivates me to work even harder. 

USAID my employer of choice.





Last updated: June 22, 2022

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