Sharmala Ishwarlall on the changing face of NGOs and fighting South Africa’s other pandemic

09 Mar 2021

Sharmala Ishwarlall on the changing face of NGOs and fighting South Africa’s other pandemic

The Graça Machel Trust’s new Business Development Manager has a clear view on the way forward to better the cause of women and children.

In April 2020, while the world came to grips with the new pandemic reality, economies slowed, and the recruitment industry was no different.

Meanwhile South Africa wrestled with an additional pandemic of violence against women and children reaching new heights.

The Odgers Berndtson South African leadership team decided to put our extra capacity to good use on the issue, focusing on an organisation dedicated to the cause of defending and bettering the lives of women and children.

A crucial role filled

After enlisting the support of our international network, we offered pro bono services to the Graça Machel Trust (GMT) on the crucial search for a new Business Development Manager.

That search culminated in the appointed of Sharmala Ishwarlall, now the new Business Development Manager at the Trust.

How does she see the future of the organisation that works across Africa to promote and strengthen women and children’s networks to drive social and economic change?

Please tell us what it is about the Graça Machel Trust and this role that excites you?

The Graça Machel Trust is an organisation that is bursting with potential, opportunities for growth and an appetite to explore, expand and evolve.

It is the size, the intimacy of the work on the ground, connections with the beneficiaries, staff and stakeholders, all of this is what attracted me to this thought-leading organisation.

I think the role compliments my skill set and allows me the independence to reach far and wide with a fresh lens on Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for the Trust.

It is undoubtedly an exciting and valuable opportunity to co-create, implement and manage new systems, policies, strategies and procedure in this new organisational position.

How do you see the current trends within the NGO world?

Well, with the uncertainty of COVID-19, the NGO architecture is undergoing a new phase of construction.

Donors are more focused on direct beneficiary funding, compliance, accountability and transparency than ever before.

There is also a shift in strategy in the international donor space. This translates into a stronger emphasis on local organisational capacity support, leadership, skills transfer and ensuring organisation are more resilient and self-reliant.

Donors are also shifting from the traditional multi-cycle funding streams and moving towards pilots and startups over a shorter period to accelerate the path to success.

What about the future of your role, what does success look like?

Well, for me it’s clear. It’s to create and maintain a high-level functioning BD unit at GMT, with a high turnover of successful proposals and strategic partnerships that will be the pathways to a sustainable organisation.

How was your experience as a candidate with Odgers Berndtson?

Honestly, the team has been phenomenal from the onset of engaging. I am still very much in awe at their level of professionalism, attention to detail, commitment, follow-ups during and after the placement and general positive attitude. It has been a pleasure and truly positive experience to have engaged with the recruitment team.

I must acknowledge the people that were responsible for my placement and becoming part of the GMT family, so thank you, Sarah-Jane McStay and Shahida Rahim.

Thank you for your time, Sharmala. And all the best for your future.