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A South African Hero, International Recognition

Roegshanda Pasco is a South African hero.

In my observation, championing a cause in South Africa engenders a high risk of being shot at. When your cause is gang violence in the Cape Flats, I would suggest that it is inevitable.

Roegshanda has been sticking up for those who need a voice from the age of 14 when she was an active member of the anti-apartheid resistance movement. She was raised on the Cape Flats by her grandparents, in a tough environment where mental and physical abuse was prevalent. With violence rife on the Cape Flats, she has spent years engaging the local community in efforts to build saver communities, particularly for women and children who have been traumatised by violence. She has met with gang members, facilitated discussions between gang members and community representatives, and spent significant time training the next generation of community advocates.

In July 2016, Roegshanda was part of a group that witnessed a gang assaulting a man near her home in Manenberg on the Cape Flats. Of the group of witnesses, Roegshanda was the only one to testify in court. Before and following her testimony, she received multiple death threats. And in 2019, unknown gunmen opened fire on her home. Her children and grandchildren were home at the time. Thankfully, only her son was injured superficially.

Since then, the family has been unable to return to their home. The disruption has caused her children to miss a year’s worth of school, and the family relies on the generosity of the communities Roegshanda has championed to support them.

Given such an extraordinary contribution, it is fitting that – during International Women’s month – Roegshanda has received the International Women of Courage award. The award was established in 2007 by then U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and is presented annually to women around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others. Each U.S embassy across the world can recommend one woman candidate. It is wonderful to have a spotlight on the immense contribution of one of our own women to changing the future for the better.

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