Since her graduation in 2010, Monash South Africa (MSA) alumna Tshepo Ricki Kgositau has achieved much while also giving back in her role as a human rights advocate for transgender and gender nonconforming persons and communities. Kgositau’s incredible work has earned her extensive professional and humanitarian recognition; she was recently named as a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, as part of US President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

In March 2016, Kgositau began her new role as Executive Director of Gender Dynamix, a community oriented organisation that aims to articulate and elevate the voices of marginalised transgender persons. This unique organisation acts an information hub and resource facility on transgender and gender nonconforming issues for various stakeholders, such as researchers, policy makers and trans persons themselves. Through her work, Kgositau ultimately aims to help achieve legal recognition, policy inclusion and the full attainment of basic human rights for transgender persons and gender nonconforming communities.

Kgositau cites her time at MSA as the catalyst for her passion towards social justice, community development and human rights proliferation. Her studies at MSA in International Relations and Criminology helped her to form a strong sense and understanding of her own political and value systems, and gave her the confidence and support she needed to begin to raise sensitivity and awareness of the existence and rights of gender and sexual minorities on campus. As well as the academic support Kgositau received, she also feels that the student experience at MSA helped to broaden her opportunities to advocate for transgender rights.

Kgositau remembers her time as a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) as the highlight of her MSA student experience. During this time she founded and conducted the first MSA choir, which is still actively performing. She was also one of the founders of the now award-winning MSA debate team, who have gone on to win accolades in national and international tournaments. The most valuable opportunity afforded to Kgositau was, she states, that the SRC gave her a platform to increase awareness and visibility of gender diversity issues, which directly influenced her future career and success.

As a trans identifying woman whose transition took place partly during her years at MSA, Kgositau highlights the feelings of acceptance and safety that MSA student representative bodies, management and faculties  encouraged through their support. She says that MSA “became a microcosm of the world I was to later work in”.

Kgositau’s current position as the Executive Director of Gender Dynamix is a challenging one, but she is excited to face the challenges head on. Since her appointment, Kgositau has actively been a part of growing the company and focusing the organisational identity towards robust human rights and trans rights activism. She also intends to utilise the platform she has achieved through the Mandela Washington Fellowship to network with like-minded leaders and continue to increase visibility for transgender persons and advocate for their rights.