Leigh-Ann aims to bring trans voice to gender equality commission

NGO leader Leigh-Ann van der Merwe has made history as the first ever trans woman to be nominated as a commissioner to the SA Commission for Gender Equality.

The gender parity activist, who is from Vergenoeg, is the founder of Sexual Health Education (SHE).

Van der Merwe is among five others who have been nominated for full-time positions to replace commissioners who are due to step down soon.

The East London Gender and Sexuality Alliance said Van der Merwe’s nomination was a welcome step towards making national statutory bodies more accessible for marginalised groups.

Van der Merwe said: “I realised it is long overdue that government departments be exposed to having staff members of the queer and trans communities.

“So often we are the beneficiaries of those programmes but we are rarely appointed to serve on those commissions.

“When I think about the number of transgender women leaders in 2010 compared to the leaders of now, I am so happy there is a cohort of capable activists who are leading us into tomorrow and making sure that transgender women are not erased.”

If appointed, Van der Merwe intends to tackle issues related to rising levels of violence against women in the metro as well as the insufficient accountability measures put in place to track national and provincial resources and funds allocated to address gender-based violence.

She hopes to fast-track first responder training for police and healthcare officials, develop evaluation frameworks to measure the impact of GBV relief programmes and promote intersectional collaboration between sex workers, LGBTQIA people and women living with HIV.

She added: “This is such a tremendous honour for a woman of my stature, where I come from and what I represent.

“East London is not just a place, it is a feeling, it is a community, the place where we come home.

“Having come so far in the process of the CGE goes to show that girls who are attending high school in places like Vergenoeg, Mdantsane or Reeston will one day carry this same baton.

“I am very happy and proud as a transgender woman of coloured descent from a small rural town to have reached this far.

“I would have laughed if you told me in high school that I would one day be considered as a commissioner of gender equality but it just goes to show that all things are possible,” Van der Merwe said.

Leigh-Ann van der Merwe


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

CAPTCHA ImageChange Image