South African human rights lawyer, Sibongile Ndashe, is candid about what it’s like to feel unequal in a country where she constantly fears for her own personal safety. “The fact that my body, my person, is vulnerable at all times ... I am worried about being attacked—it means that I am unequal. I’m not able to participate as a citizen in the same way that men actually participate,” she says.
In 2014, Ndashe founded the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Johannesburg, a Ford grantee focussed on establishing a network of lawyers across Africa who can identify and litigate gender and sexuality cases with the aim of establishing transformative precedent. She believes equality can only be realized when all of the barriers that do not make her feel like a full citizen are removed so that she can participate fully in society and enjoy all her human rights.
“We live in a country that has got extremely high levels of violence against LGBTQ people. And I think what it teaches us is that legal and policy change that comes from courts or from parliament is not enough to bring about social change,” she says. The Initiative for Strategic Litigation, is working to protect LGBTQ rights.
“That’s why in our work we are really invested in not only working with the court but also this idea that we need to be able to work with the people who are impacted by the laws so that the struggle doesn’t die once lawyers have had their champagne moments and they have won their cases,” she says.
Ndashe is part of the #FutureIsHers multimedia series of interviews, essays, and more, celebrating the innovators, risk-takers, and change-makers the Ford Foundation has proudly supported and the impact they’ve had on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Despite the many challenges women and girls face, around the world they’re rising up. Determined and persistent, they’re leading the way in showing us what gender justice looks like, disrupting inequality and creating a world where social change is possible: The future is hers.