Hailing from rural KwaZulu-Natal, a 73-year-old South African women’s and indigenous rights activist was recently the only African nominated for the 2020 Martin Ennals Award, also referred to as the Nobel Prize for human rights.
Growing up during the 1950s during the apartheid era when her father worked in Joburg as a migrant worker while she lived with her mother who worked as a domestic worker, Sizani 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 my tears start rolling down my face,” said Ngubane.
This was how she became politically aware of her place in the world as a black person before she turned 10 years old.
Her mother had bought a radio for her at the age of eight, unknowingly birthing a passion in her child to fight against the regime she was born into.
“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.
Years later, after serving as a member of the ANC party, she with three other women in 1990 started their own organisation, the Rural Women’s Movement, to help women who battled with land issues, women’s rights violations and more.
She is one of three people nominated for the award.