Sindiso Mafico: An International Powerhouse and Champion for Social Impact and Innovation

When we think about women who have made an indelible mark around the world, we think about women who have broken barriers often unimaginable beyond borders. Such is the case when Sindiso Mafico comes to mind. This Global Citizen positions herself as a crucial part of the change occurring in our communities by encouraging local and global change — constantly advocating for social justice along the different chapters of her journey. From carving a path of her own to making the most positive impact on underserved communities, she embodies the qualities that inspire others to follow suit.

Mafico was born in Zimbabwe and raised in Eswatini before relocating to Barbados and settling in the United States of America. This diverse background was certainly a defining factor in broadening her perspective and increasing her interest in issues that may not have been as visible without exposure to different cultures and viewpoints. Mafico took up Sociology, International Affairs, and Media Studies as an undergraduate with hopes of bringing awareness to social issues through media. Sindiso displayed her passion for pursuing social change on a global scale when she filmed and produced a documentary film addressing police brutality with the Media Institute for Social Change.

This, however, was only the beginning. She would go on to enroll at NYU Wagner where she pursued a degree in Public Administration before becoming an adjunct professor of Public Policy. Through this post, Sindiso taught her students how to develop effective solutions to social challenges through analyzing and evaluating policies.

Furthermore, Sindiso worked at NYU Africa House – an organization whose primary focus is fostering a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between Africa and the global community. She then pivoted into designing and executing a marketing strategy for NYU’s Impact Investment Fund, raising over $40,000 towards a climate-tech start-up. As a social entrepreneur, she concerned herself with practical and innovative ideas to address social issues and inspire positive change in emerging communities.

Mafico has worked for distinguished organizations like the United Nations — facilitating the launch of the Complex Risks Analytics Fund. This multilateral financing tool invests in data to better anticipate, prevent, and respond to complex crises in fragile settings. In navigating diverse environments over the years and through these different roles, she has embodied adaptability and open-mindedness while successfully engaging with and finding solutions to social challenges.

Today, Mafico works for a leading humanitarian organization. Founded in 1919, Save The Children is an NGO that concerns itself with improving the lives of children all over the world. As the lead associate for Purpose Led Marketing, she facilitates fundraising campaigns to fund humanitarian work in developing countries. The organization works in over 100 countries, providing emergency relief in crises, advocating for children’s rights, and implementing long-term development programs to address poverty, malnutrition, and lack of educational opportunities. Through her efforts over the years, Sindiso Mafico aims to inspire other Africans to pursue social change for their communities.

Tell us a little about your background.
I consider myself to be a global citizen. I am Zimbabwean, but I grew up in the Kingdom of Eswatini, then relocated to Barbados and I currently live in the United States. Growing up in highly impoverished countries inspired me to pursue humanitarian work. When I was an undergrad at Skidmore College, I had the distinct honor of being awarded a grant to do a summer fellowship at the Media Institute for Social Change in Portland, Oregon where I developed my passion for pursuing social change. I produced a documentary featuring the first African-American woman in the Portland police bureau. The purpose of the documentary was to encourage other women to join the police force as a potential solution to police brutality. Upon graduating from Skidmore with a Major in sociology and a double minor in international affairs and media studies, I decided to enroll in NYU Wagner. I was fortunate enough to receive a partial scholarship to study social impact, Investing, and Innovation. Through this degree, I learned how to develop entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. 

What would you regard as your most rewarding as well as challenging experience?
My master’s degree from NYU Wagner is without a doubt my most rewarding and challenging experience. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the language and tools of business and policy and I leverage those skills in my role at Save the Children today. During my tenure at NYU Wagner, I served as the marketing officer for NYU’s Impact Investment fund. This role granted me the opportunity to gain real-world experience in social entrepreneurship as I raised over $40,000 towards financing a climate tech startup. I am proud of the fact that I was able to leverage the marketing skills I have gained from previous roles to make a meaningful contribution to NYU and to the start-up we invested in. Upon graduating from NYU, I was offered a position as an adjunct professor for a Public Policy class. It was gratifying to be able to pass on the knowledge and passion I had developed for evaluating and creating policies that serve the public good to the next cohort of NYU students.

Tell us more about your work with Save the Children.
I am the lead associate for purpose-led marketing at Save the Children. My role involves executing cause-related marketing campaigns with for-profit organizations to raise funds to finance our programs. Save the Children is an international non-governmental organization, whose work aligns with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This international treaty outlines the economic, social, and health rights of children and is the most universally accepted human rights treaty. Save the Children works in over 100 countries to give children a healthy start in life. In 2022, Save the Children programs and partners helped 118 million children to become healthier, safer, and better educated. I am proud to work for an organization whose mission and vision align so closely with my personal values. 

You’ve worked for esteemed organizations like the United Nations: What’s a lesson that stuck with you from that experience? 
I was selected to do an internship at the United Nations in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Through this experience, I had the unique privilege and distinct honor of creating and collaboratively executing the marketing strategy for a General Assembly event titled ‘Data with Purpose’. The event was hosted by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed- a British-Nigerian diplomat, and Marie Pangestu, the managing director of development policy and partnerships at the World Bank. The event featured a host of high-level public policy officials, such as His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi, the president of Botswana, and Anne Witkowsky, the Assistant Secretary, in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in the U.S Department of State. Since I was part of planning the event, I was able to listen in on the decision-making process for who would be invited to speak on the panel. It was inspiring to hear how much of an emphasis was put on diversity and inclusion.

My biggest takeaway from my experience working at the UN was witnessing women in positions of leadership. The director of my unit was female, the hosts of the General Assembly event were also female, and the General Assembly event was moderated by a woman, more specifically, an African woman.

Sindiso Mafic

Would you say your perspective on social issues has changed or evolved since you started?
Yes, it has changed. When I first started, I wanted to change the world for the better and I believed that I could; but the truth is, change happens gradually, not rapidly. I had to learn to be patient and to be realistic about my expectations. I am now less concerned with changing the world and more concerned with creating change at the community level. I worked for an organization named Kimber Health where I worked towards improving New York City’s resilience to COVID-19 by enrolling low-income and immigrant communities in a free health insurance plan. This internship was part of a public-private partnership between United Health Care and the New York State of Health in light of New York being the global epicenter for COVID-19. Through this experience, I was able to create meaningful change for low-income African communities who can’t afford health insurance in New York. It was gratifying to witness the impact that my work had on my community which served as my source of inspiration and motivation. As a result of my performance at Kimber Health, I was given an award for getting the highest number of people to enroll in the health insurance plan among my peers. This experience taught me how impactful creating change at the community level can be. 

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration, and why?
My mother is my biggest inspiration. My mother is an international civil servant, she is currently working in Syria, where she is helping women and children to overcome the challenges of the world’s largest displacement crisis through administering humanitarian aid. My mom’s compassion goes beyond her job. In the context of my family, my mom has helped many of my relatives pay for their tuition so we can have the educational credentials necessary to pursue our dreams. My mother also believes in supporting social entrepreneurship and often chooses to buy from local vendors instead of established brands to support young entrepreneurs. My mother always puts the needs of others before her own, I am forever in her debt for all the ways she has supported me throughout the years. I hope to follow in her footsteps in my career and personal life. 

What advice would you give to someone who hopes to enter into your field of work?
I would advise anyone hoping to enter humanitarian work to establish their personal mission and vision for their career, and to align themselves with organizations that will help you reach your goals. When I was a student at NYU, I worked for NYU Africa House and the Center for Technology and Economic Development because I knew that I wanted to be part of creating positive change for the African diaspora through research and technological innovation. Through my role at NYU Africa House, I hosted prestigious seminars and forums featuring African leaders and policymakers such as His Excellency, Wamkele Mene the Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, and Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, the co-founder of the viral #BringBackOurGirls movement and former federal minister in Nigeria.

How do you hope to inspire and impact other women through your story?
I hope my story inspires women to lead lives of purpose. Social change has been my personal mission since my undergraduate degree. The path was not easy, it was paved in unpaid internships, minimum wage roles, and overwhelming workloads, but I can honestly say it was worth it. I enjoy my work, knowing that someone’s life is better because of what I do. I work in a female-dominated industry, so I am constantly inspired by the women I meet who are creating change at the community and global levels. I hope other women are inspired to pursue their passions and are reassured that they can realize their dreams.