About Pregs Govender
Pregs Govender (birth-name Pregaluxmi), is a feminist activist, writer and author of Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination. She is widely respected for her contribution to advancing women's rights in South Africa and internationally. Pregs initiated SA’s globally influential ‘Women’s Budget’ in Parliament's 1994 budget debates and steered its political impact on the 1999 Budget. She was the only MP to register opposition to the arms deal in SA's Defence Budget Vote. Pregs was the Chair of Parliament’s Women’s Committee, JMCIQLSW, which ensured that 80% of feminist transformative legislative priorities were enacted. She chaired public hearings on HIV/Aids when government's denial of treatment resulted in numerous deaths. Her report to the ANC Caucus broke its silence on treatment and in the month she resigned as an MP in 2002, Government's turnaround statement included all three of the JMCIQLSW report's recommendations.
In 1994, Pregs co-edited SA’s country report to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and served on leadership structures that established the national gender machinery and the national empowerment policy framework. During her term (1996-2002), the JMCIQLSW legislative priorities, including the Domestic Violence Act, the Customary Marriages Act, the Child Maintenance Act and changes to labour laws, advancing women’s rights in the workplace, were enacted. In 1996, Pregs declined to be the ANC’s woman speaker of the neo-liberal economic policy (GEAR) launch in parliament and her pro-choice abortion speech received a standing ovation.
In 2007, Pregs was elected Chair of the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament, which proposed stronger oversight and electoral reform. As SAHRC Commissioner and Deputy Chair (2009-2015), Pregs drove implementation of SAHRC findings at local and provincial level and secured a country-wide status report and action plan from the Presidency on water and sanitation that is still widely used by organisations and the media to monitor government implementation and raise awareness of corporate accountability.
During SA's transition between 1992 and 1994, Pregs managed the women’s national coalition (WNC) campaign for a Women's Charter of Effective Equality. It involved 90 national organisations and hundreds of local organisations. The public education, participatory research and media campaign mobilised approximately 2 million women, who ensured political will for women’s rights in SA’s Constitution. During the campaign, 'women's issues' in hard-news went from almost zero to daily coverage.
Pregs graduated in 1981 and worked as a teacher in high-schools and at the University of Durban-Westville (now UKZN), where she also worked as research assistant to the Director of the Institute of Socio-Economic Research. In 1987, Pregs joined the majority-women clothing union and was elected national educator. Her education program contributed significantly to women being elected into leadership of GAWU and to a mandate from 100 000 racially divided workers to join the non-racial federation, COSATU and become SACTWU. Pregs subsequently undertook a feasibility study into and was appointed to lead the Worker’s College at the University of the Western Cape, which produced worker leader graduates.
From the mid-70's to the 80's, Pregs learnt about feminism, socialism and solidarity in student, community and women's movements, including as Natal Organisation of Women (NOW) media co-ordinator and as a founding member of Speak.
Pregs has written over 300 speeches, media articles, reports and book chapters in local and international publications. Her work as a writer, speaker, educator, facilitator and strategist is infused with insights from her activism, parenting and yoga practice.
Her voluntary contributions include being patron of Gun-free SA and previously on the global Panel on Human Dignity. Her awards include the Ashoka Fellowship, an honorary doctorate in Law and one in Philosophy, the inaugural Ruth First fellowship for courageous writing and activism, the Thousand Currents Artist in Residence, and the International Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) Inspiration Award for her “initiative, leadership, and unrelenting commitment [that] have made a significant impact in advancing gender equality and social justice around the world”.
Pregs listening and writing at an international feminist meeting in India
Pregs later inciting love, courage & insubordination
"The surgeon diagnosed me with cancer. When they advise radical surgery, my brother Daya’s death from cancer makes me feel a sense of urgency and I push to have the operation the next week.
Two days before my operation, I’d woken up determined to swim in Durban’s warm water, determined to experience the vitality of the ocean, the vitality of my life. After the operation, I sat in the garden, exposing my naked back to the early morning sun as the birds built their nest outside my window. I watched them feed their baby, watched it emerge on spindly legs, and test its fragile wings. One morning it flew away, leaving its carefully crafted nest to the elements.
I have this life … I will live it, while it flows through me, like the blood through my veins, like the air through my lungs."
- Foreword, Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination,
Pregs and her brother, Daya
Pregs' children, from left to right: Saien, Parusha and Yashodan
Pregs and her daughter, Parusha
Parusha Naidoo, artist and plant-based food activist, whose joyful creativity sparked my own. Yashodan Naidoo and Saien Benjamin, for rigorous critical thinking and thought-provoking questions that sharpen my own insights. Paul Benjamin for long, meditative walks and consistent support. Family and friends for laughter over shared meals, spirited dancing and swimming
Thousand Currents' Artist in Residency, which offered "Pregs the time and space to dream and imagine new ways of integrating healing, organising, being and movement building; to take Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination into the world; to write and to teach so that others can use the learnings to participate more fully in revolutions of love and courage" (Solome Lemma and Rajasvini Bhansali)
Lara Carikas, for the initial design and freelance assistant, Maya-Rose Torrao, for working closely with me to complete the website
All who contributed to Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination at its launches, curriculum workshops and retreats. Thank you for exemplifying love, courage and insubordination
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