S.H.E Coordinator and Founder[/caption]
Leigh Ann van der Merwe was born in 1982 in Ugie, Eastern Cape of South Africa. Growing up as a gender questioning person, she struggled to conform to typical male gender codes and as a result always felt left out both in family life and at school. Leigh Ann’s first gender challenge was attempting to play on the Ugie High School Netball team. Netball is a typical female sport code in South Africa. She struggled through high school and graduated from Blackhealth High School in 2000. She enrolled for an LL.B degree with the University of the Western Cape in 2001 but did not complete due to financial difficulty. She started working as a controller at a security management firm. It was through another trans woman that Leigh Ann was introduced to trans activism in 2007. Her experience of activism includes being a candidate in the Transitioning Africa Exchange Program from 2010 to 2011. Leigh Ann was also a fellow in the Open Society/Austrian American Foundation/Transgender Centre of Excellence program in Salzburg, Austria during October 2011 and presented at a transgender consultation at UNAids in Geneva during November 2011. She holds a seat on the United Nations steering committee for transgender people in the Global South. Leigh Ann reviewed a number of gender literature resources produced by other NGO’s and was part of the study team on a UNFPA report on the challenges of sex workers in the East London area. She is actively involved with a number of NGO’s dealing with gender & women’s issues, HIV and public health. She is also the secretary of the board of an East London based NGO working with orphans and vulnerable children. She presented two papers at the first ever Gender Dynamix Transgender Health and Research Conference, November 2011. Her paper on Transgender Feminism is currently under review for the New Voices in Psychology publication with the University of South Africa. In 2012, Leigh Ann received an award from the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre in recognition of her work as a Women’s Rights Defender. She holds a certificate in Community Journalism from the University of South Africa and is working towards finalising a B.A. degree in Communication Science. She is very passionate about feminism and women’s rights.
Siziphiwe Lulolu Masiko preferred name Phiwe was born in Idutywa, Eastern Cape, South Africa and very passionate about women’s rights. Phiwe joined SHE in January 2014 as Programs Officer moved to lead Global fund programme on Health and HIV and now she is the Programmes Manager at SHE. Phiwe holds a Bachelor of Commence information systems from the University of Fort Hare. She enjoys technology, system design/development and fonts/graphics. During her university studies she was involved in different student empowering movements and co-founder UFH-LGBTI student movement now known as UFH Rainbow Blood. She is a mother,and enjoys spending time out with her daughter.
Zikhona Ncukana was born in Centane and grew up there. She studied Financial Information Systems at the Walter Sisulu University and studied Book Keeping at Damelin. She has worked in various institutions and has vast experience spanning over six years in Small, Medium, Large businesses. She joined Social Health and Empowerment mid June 2014. She holds the position of Financial Manager at S.H.E where she performs a variety of accounting duties related to the maintenance and review of accounting, financial and statical record, develops budgets and maintaining organizational controls and budgeting systems that provide control and forecasting of expenditures. Apart from her work Zikhona is a lesbian woman and a mother of an 11 year old beautiful baby girl.
Babalwa is a young ambitious woman born in 1987, she is from Centane. She grew in Umtata and went to school there both primary and high school. She came to East London after high school and went to the Walter Sisulu University and studied Local Government Finance. She recently joined Social Health and Empowerment as a Human Resource Consultant. She develops job descriptions and person specification at S.H.E. Babalwa also coordinates logistics and she is involved in the running of other projects as well and is very passionate about her job. She loves travelling, has a giving hand when she can, she loves meeting new people. She is also a lesbian woman and an older sister to her younger siblings.
Sibulele Ronnie Tyakuma “preferably Ronnie” born March 1992 in Annshaw Location – Middledrift. Raised by a single mother who instilled love, respect and hard work onto him. He is a friendly, supportive and interactive guy. An aspiring drag entertainer and in his spare time loves video recording, editing and siging. He matriculated in 2008 at Kama High School. And has furthered his studies and has graduated at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) with an undergrad Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 2011 and Financial Market Honours Degree in 2013. He is the Monitoring and Evaluations (M&E) Officer at Social Health and Empowerment (SHE). Ronnie intends to do Honours degree in Management and a course in Monitoring and Evaluation at UNISA in 2016. Prior to working at SHE, Ronnie co-founded an LGBTI society (formerly UFH-LGBTI) Rainbow Blood EL Campus.
“EVERYDAY, WAKE UP AND SLAY”
Phiwe Ngcengi was born 1991, in Centane in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. She proudly identifies as a transgender woman. Phiwe, who lost both her parents at the age of five, have always been resilient to the cultural norms on gender. She grew up with a strong desire for gender transition. Phiwe matriculated in 2011 and is currently pursuing a diploma in Human Resource Management. At S.H.E, Phiwe is coordinating the Free Talk Support Group for transgender women and also assisting on admin duties. Phiwe is passionate about supporting human rights for all women. She loves music, drama and dancing.
Nombulelo Julia Duze was born in Aliwal North. She has a junior certificate and graduated as a registered nurse in 1973. She started working in 1975 at Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital in Mdantsane. She has worked in various departments including clinics in Mdantsane Township. She worked in the casualty department for 10 years. She then moved to the neonatal unit and this is where she worked most of her career working with new born babies and supervising mothers on how to feed and breastfeeding their babies as well as bathing them. She also assisted nurses to carry out their duties. Nombulelo also worked at St Dominic’s Private Hospital in the neonatal department for 2 years and then moved to Nqubela TB Hospital where she worked for a year. In August 2014 she joined Social Health Empowerment as a supervisor for the peer educators. She has a certificate for HIV counselling as a peer educator and overall supervisor.
“Ukuba lo Thixo ngo wethu uyakusikhapha kude kube sesiphelweni, anyway my days are done”
Felicity Theresa De Kock was born on 06 February 1979 in Ugie in the Eastern Cape. She is currently employed at Social Health Empowerment as a Data Capturer and Office Administrator. She studied subjects in banking through UNISA as she was employed at FNB and Standard Bank previously as a service manager and business consultant. Felicity is very passionate about human rights, especially women rights. She is planning to further her studies in that direction of human rights. She believes we are all human and should be treated with respect and dignity. Apart from her work Theresa is a mother of two beautiful boys 11 and 7 years old.
Tulie Naomi Vili was born in 1987 and is from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape. She completed most of her formal education in East London. Tulie is a very adventurous person as she loves travelling. In 2014 she started her own entertainment company, A.V Entertainment which is mostly uplifting youth and giving them the platform to express themselves. Tulie was also crowned Miss Trans Diva 2014 and was an ambassador for Social Health and Empowerment. She has taken part in many beauty pageants and will still continue doing so as she has a strong passion for the modelling industry.
Vuyiseka Ngcawa was born in March 1992. She grew up in the Eastern Cape in Mdantsane and was raised by her grandparents while her mother went to work in Cape Town. She later moved to Cape Town and matriculated from Zisukhanyo Senior Secondary. In 2010 she enrolled for a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences at the University of Fort Hare (East London Campus) but left after her first year due to personal reasons. She moved to Port Elizabeth where she graduated with an Honours Degree in Psychology from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in April 2015. She is now a Psychology intern at Social Health Empowerment. Her main focus at the NGO is on improving the organization’s psychosocial support programs. She is a lesbian woman who believes in human rights and that her sexuality should not define her. She is interested in anything that involves personal development, empowerment as well as enriching young minds such as art, sport, book clubs, psychoeducational programs and debate. She also considers herself a humanitarian and has volunteered in a number of community outreach programs.
Ashwin Loots, preferred to be called Ashlee is a 24 year old transgender woman. Ashlee was born in Kimberley and she is currently a Feminist Intern at Social Health and Empowerment. Ashlee matriculated at William Pescod and later enrolled at Moremogolo College where she took a course in Public Management. She also volunteered at LEGBO Northern Cape where she learnt about HIV/AIDS and also about the vast community work of the LGBTIQ and what it stands for. Ashlee’s’ wish is to become a writer, as she enjoys writing stories and believes that she writes from a woman’s perspective. She is a feminist because she strongly believes in women’s rights. Ashlee is actively involved in her community and church.
Thandeka Michelle Ntlonti born in June 25 1991 in the city of Port Elizabeth is the last born of two children.She is an out going young lady, grounded in family values and has a has a very strong bond with her mother Lindiwe. She matriculated from Lawson Brown High School in 2010 and obtained a National Certificate in Versatile Broadcasting in 2012 from Walter Sisulu University. Thandeka is currently doing her internship at Social Health and Empowerment as the Media Intern towards her National Diploma in Journalism which she will complete at the end of the year.