In 1981 after graduating, Pregs began teaching. In 1987, she was elected national educator of SA's majority-women clothing union, GAWU. Pregs fulfilled its education resolution by developing a program that secured a mandate from 100, 000 racially divided workers to join the non-racial federation, Cosatu and become SACTWU. Pregs then researched the feasibility of a worker's college and and on behalf of the union movement, helped establish, lead and pilot it at the University of the Western Cape, producing worker leader graduates.

 

During SA’s transition, Pregs managed the women’s national coalition (WNC) campaign that mobilised approximately 2 million women to secure political will for women’s rights in SA’s Constitution. As an MP, Pregs initiated SA’s globally influential ‘Women’s Budget’ in the 1994 budget debates, developed an alliance with researchers and steered its political impact on the 1999 Budget.  She co-edited SA’s country report to the Beijing Conference and called for statistics on women's lives, including disaggregated data and costing women's unpaid labour, both of which government now routinely does. In 1996, Pregs declined being the ANC’s delegated woman speaker on GEAR, government’s neo-liberal macro-economic policy and pro-choice Abortion speech received a standing ovation, including from anti-abortion protesters. Pregs was elected Chair of Parliament’s Women’s Committee (JMCIQLSW), which ensured that 80% of feminist priorities (including the  Domestic Violence Act) were enacted during her term. She was the only MP to oppose the arms deal when it came into effect in the Defence Budget Vote. Pregs chaired public hearings on the gendered impact of HIV/Aids and her report to the ANC Caucus broke its silence on treatment.

 

In the month she resigned as an MP, her report’s recommendations were included in Cabinet’s 2002 turnaround statement. In 2007 Pregs was elected Chair of the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament that proposed stronger oversight and electoral reform. As SAHRC Commissioner and  Deputy Chair (2009-2015), Pregs drove implementation of its findings. She connected individual violations to underlying structural causes driving inequality, poverty and violence, especially the global racist, patriarchal, capitalist system. A key SAHRC finding that defined the water and sanitation campaign that she led, ensured that the Presidency delivered a country-wide status report and action plan. Her final SAHRC report continues to be widely used to frame and measure progress.

 

Pregs is widely published locally and internationally, having written over three hundred speeches, media articles, reports, book chapters, forewords and afterwords that have influenced public awareness and decision-making at key political moments. She works as an independent writer, researcher, educator and speaker (2002 - 2009 ; 2016 - present) 

 

Pregs has facilitated workshops for feminist movements, farm-workers and parliamentarians including the International Feminist University Network’s curriculum workshop on feminism and globalisation. She writes simply and clearly about the complex issues she researches from parliamentary and human rights commission speeches and reports to the concept paper on 'The role of MPs in ensuring free medicine' for the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) first global conference on HIV and AIDS. The IPU research involved desktop research, interviews and site-visits to Brazil, from local district clinics to the office of the Health minister. Her voluntary contributions include serving as patron of Gun-free SA and previously serving on the global panel on human dignity chaired by Mary Robinson, amongst other structures. Her awards include an honorary doctorate in Law and one in Philosophy, the Ashoka Fellowship, the Thousand Currents Artist in Residence, the inaugural Ruth First fellowship 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’.

‚Äč

In the late 80’s as National education officer, Pregs developed a national education program and worked with the education, media and organising teams to fulfil the education resolution from GAWU's founding Congress. The education program contributed to women being elected into leadership at all levels, from factory floor to national office, while securing its mandate.  In helping establish, lead and pilot the Worker's College, on behalf of the union movement at the University of the Western Cape, Pregs secured the voluntary contribution of unionists and academics who helped developed curricula and taught subjects including gender studies, political economy, labour law, collective bargaining and leadership and organisational development. Its worker leaders were capped by Archbishop Tutu in their graduation ceremony. CASE's external evaluation by D Budlender, noted that 'Pregs performed an Amazonian task...funding and finance, liaison with complicated university structures, academic planning of the curriculum, organisational management on a day-to-day basis...preparing media...the list is endless as each of these in itself includes a whole lot of time-consuming activities...'


During SA’s transition, Pregs managed the WNC campaign for a women's charter of effective equality The campaign's public education and media campaign ran alongside its participatory research and focused on land, work, violence, health and legal status . The WNC mobilised an estimated two million women who contributed to securing the political will for feminist gains in SA’s Constitution. In the RDP National Office Pregs edited the final RDP draft to incorporate women’s demands that had been excluded by male editors. As an MP in SA’s first democratic Parliament Pregs co-edited SA’s country report to the United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing. She initiated SA’s globally influential ‘Women’s Budget’ in the 1994 budget debates, steering its impact on the 1999 National Budget. Through the Finance Committee and National Assembly Pregs secured commitment from the Minister to develop gender-disaggregated statistics and to count women's unpaid labour. As Chair of parliament’s Committee on Women (JMCQLSW), Pregs ensured it prioritised feminist legislative changes, 80% of which (including the Domestic Violence Act) were enacted by 1999. Her pro-choice speech during the Abortion Bill debate received a standing ovation from MPs and the public gallery, including anti-abortion protesters. In 2001, Pregs chaired public hearings on the gendered impact of HIV and AIDS, when many women were dying for lack of treatment. Her report to the ANC Caucus broke its silence and its three key recommendations on treatment were included in Cabinet’s 2002 turn-around statement. As the ANC’s delegated woman speaker at the 1996 launch of government’s macro- economic policy, GEAR, Pregs declined, arguing it would deepen inequality and poverty. She was the only MP to register opposition to SA’s infamous arms-deal in the Defence Budget Vote itself, arguing that it was not SA’s priority. In 2002, Pregs resigned as an MP.
 

In 2007, Pregs was elected Chair of the Independent Panel Review of Parliament, which proposed strengthening MP’s oversight and reforming SA’s electoral system. In 2009, Pregs was elected SAHRC Commissioner and served as its Deputy Chair till 2015, when her term ended. Her approach highlighted economic injustice and the interdependence of all rights. She led the SAHRC's work on water and sanitation, access to information and emergency healthcare, and contributed to areas of shared responsibility with all Commissioners, including Business accountability and food as a human right. Pregs developed feminist human rights campaigns that secured the implementation of key SAHRC findings, including that the Presidency provide a report to the SAHRC on the status of water and sanitation in every local district. Pregs edited the Commission’s report on its hearings in every province, ‘Water is life; Sanitation is dignity: accountability to people who are poor’ that was widely used by organisations, movements and government. Today, Pregs continues to work with local and international organisations to incite love, courage and insubordination against unjust systems while writing another book.

Copyright of Pregs Govender 2019 ©

Non-profit use with acknowledgement

Commercial use only with permission