Sizani Ngubane is a veteran South African activist, who has dedicated her life to promoting gender equality and fought for women’s and indigenous rights.
Ngubane went through a great deal of setbacks, but that would not stop her from fighting for women’s rights. According to the BBC, the South African activist was once stabbed, slapped with a gun and hit by a speeding car, but all these threats on her life did not deter her from working for women’s land rights.
Growing up during the 1950s during the apartheid era, her father worked in Joburg as a migrant worker while her mother worked as a domestic worker.
“I was six when I told my mother that when I grow up, I want to visit the African continent and learn how other women in Africa tackle their challenges so I could come back and share the information with women here,” she said.
She started helping her mother cater to her siblings at age six. At 10, her family was forcibly evicted and her father committed suicide three years later.
Ngubane recalls the painful memory of her mother losing her land ownership because she was a woman and had no son to hand it down to.
“When I think about it, I can remember how sad my mom’s face was. It happened 64 years ago and my mom passed away five years ago, but when I think about my mom’s face, tears start rolling down my face,” said Ngubane.
Her mother was earning little so Ngubane dropped out of school so she could get a job to ease their financial burdens. As a result, she never received any proper or formal education.
Years later, she would serve as a member of the ANC.
She commenced her human rights career as an activist with the ANC before becoming the Provincial Coordinator of the SA Women’s National Coalition in 1991. She steered research on rural women and contributed to the formulation of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality in South Africa.
Her contribution was instrumental to build the section on rural and indigenous women of the Bill of Rights within the South African Constitution, adopted in 1996.
Along with three other women in 1990, Ngubane started an organization called the “Rural Women’s Movement” to help women who battled with land issues, women’s rights violations and more.
According to reports, Rural Women’s Movement is now a coalition of some 501 Community Based Organizations with a membership of approximately 50,000 women, working both at a grassroots, national and international levels.
She’s led numerous campaigns and advocacy, pieces of training, lobbied for the equal rights of rural women and their right to own land in jurisdictions that are under traditional leadership.
She is now focused on fighting against traditional court bills, such as the Ingonyama Trust, dispossessing rural women from their land in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
For nearly six decades, Ngubane has committed relentlessly to women’s rights at large, despite the numerous threats she suffered. In 2011, she addressed the United Nations on issues facing rural women
Ngubane, 73, is not only an activist but a Human Rights’ Defender who is the only African of three people nominated for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award, also referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.
“When you begin to give land to women, a lot of abuses in society are eliminated. They can feed their own families without fear of being evicted. They can inherit land when their male relatives die. And most importantly, they are not so controlled by the men in their lives. Because when land is the main value of a society and women cannot own land, we are nothing. We are not 100% human beings. It is easy to abuse and abandon us. So the land is the only way out for us,” she said in a recent interview.