Isasiphinkosi Mdingi, 23, the only African to be awarded the US Emerging Young Leaders Award. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
SHE proudly represented the African continent at the Emerging Young Leaders Awards in the US.

Isasiphinkosi Mdingi, a 23-year-old University of Fort Hare Bachelor of Law postgraduate student and activist, said her work and campaigns on gender-based violence and rape culture were the reason why she was chosen to be among the world’s emerging young leaders.

She said that during her time at the university she helped draft a memorandum on how to abolish the rape culture and gender-based violence on campus.

“On the memorandum we wrote a formal policy which addressed formal procedures that victims of rape and domestic violence on campus had to follow.

“We were tired of seeing girls being raped and the perpetrators walking around campus freely without victims getting justice,” said Mdingi.

She said first-year students were often an easy target as they would be pressured into having sexual intercourse with someone in exchange for favours or before they would be assisted.

“Normally such cases are not reported because people don’t know where to go and who to report to, so the memorandum addressed all the challenges that victims faced.”

As the only African recipient, the Eastern Cape-born and based Mdingi said at first she didn't believe she had been selected as the recipient of the third annual Emerging Young Leaders Award.

“To be told I was part of the 10 selected from all over the world to be honoured with the award took time to process.

“It was then that I realised that because we are from rural areas, we believe that certain things are meant for certain people, but that is not true.

“This proved that a black girl’s dreams are valid.”

The annual Emerging Young Leaders Awards were granted to 10 outstanding young leaders (aged 18 to 24) from across the globe. The recipients visited the US for an intensive two-week programme from April 29 to May 12, designed to recognise and support their efforts to enact positive societal transformation.

They visited Washington DC, where they were recognised at a public ceremony for their efforts, and attended meetings with US government officials and NGOs.

Mdingi said the Emerging Young Leaders exchange programme would continue in the home communities of those who participated, with mentoring and support through virtual exchange.

She said she was excited to see that most of the people who received the awards were females, which she felt showed that the revolution was female-led.