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Sikhonzile Ndlovu serves as the Advocacy Officer for Gender Justice at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Communion Office in Geneva, Switzerland. She has been working in the area of human rights and gender justice advocacy for close to two decades.
1. What achievements are you proud of and why?
I am most proud of my contribution to the LWF’s work to bring issues of women’s human rights abuses in different countries to the attention of the international community. I am happy that I have contributed to several statements to the UN Human Rights Council as well as shadow reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Coordinating the LWF’s participation in the annual Commission on the Status of Women in New York is another achievement worth noting. This has provided a platform for local men and women to contribute to global discourse on gender equality and women’s right and gave visibility to local level work.
2. As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
In the earlier years of my career when my children were younger, it was very challenging to balance professional demands and my role as a mother. This often meant that I could not attend evening networking events. Of course, this has implications when you are still trying to build your career and move up the professional ladder.
3. What is the most important change that should be made in your country?
I ensure the full implementation of constitutional provisions for gender equality and adherence to global human rights standards. Most of them remain only as lip service with no tangible action on the ground. As global citizens, we need to learn tolerance and love for our fellow human beings. We have universal problems that we all encounter in our different spaces for example climate change, lack of economic justice and sexual gender based violence among others.
4. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
The world is your oyster, go out there and make a difference. Leadership is not a numbers game, where we want to have women in decision-making just for the sake of numbers. It is about being able to make a difference. You have to work hard and build your profile and credibility.
5. As a Human rights and Gender justice advocate, what are some of the challenges you have come across?
The increasing push back on human rights, especially women’s rights and attacks on human rights defenders is huge challenge. This includes the faith community where fundamentalist interpretations of religion have been used to violate women’s rights and justify gender based discrimination. This calls for us to make deliberate efforts to counter this narrative. Whilst there has been progress in uplifting women’s rights, the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare existing inequalities as seen in the surge in sexual and gender based violence, especially domestic violence, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, education as well as increase in child marriages.
6. Why do we talk about human rights and not human responsibility?
Human rights and responsibility go hand in hand. Human rights are a non-negotiable, they are God’s gift to humanity. Just being human guarantees us certain rights and freedoms. However our ability to enjoy these rights is dependent on other people respecting them. Each human being therefore has a responsibility and a duty towards fellow human beings and the community.
7. What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about empowering women and girls, to be aware of the massive potential they have to change the world and to utilize their agency, believing that they can be anything or anyone they want to be. I am most happy when I see young women become influential and lead in previously male dominated fields.
8. What does being a women mean to you?
To me being a woman means being a person of substance, a person of power, someone of positive influence in their sphere of influence. It also means being aware of the triple burden we face as women but defying the odds and forging ahead to claim the space.
9. Why do you think organizations would benefit from having more women within the top structures of governance?
Women bring different perspectives to leadership and approaches to work resulting in a more inclusive and less authoritarian workplace. Women make up 52% of the population and it is only fair that they have the same opportunities as men. Besides, diversity in leadership is good for business.
10. What would you do if you didn’t achieve you current goal?
I would take some time to reflect on why I am not achieving the goal, talk to key stakeholders and then based on the feedback, make some adjustments and try again. Giving up is never an option.