11 June 2019 | “I was raised in a strict Seventh-day Adventist family, in a society where a woman was expected to know her place,” said Nondumiso “Ndumie” Funda, 40. “Every aspect of life was handled by men. Women couldn’t be outspoken. We were not equal. But I knew from a young age that I was a feminist and lesbian — two things that I could never change.”

According to Gay City News, Funda is chief executive director and founder of Luleki Sizwe Womyn’s Project (luleki-sizwe.com), a non-profit focused on helping lesbian victims of homophobic attacks and rape in 10 South African township communities. The organization is based in Symphony Village, an area in Cape Town.

“The first part of our name comes from Luleka Makiwane, who was a lesbian activist,” Funda said about a friend of hers. “She lived openly and had no shame about her sexuality. She was a strong and powerful woman, and even though she fought for LGBTI rights she connected strongly to the struggle of the poor in general. This did not protect her, though.”

Funda said that Makiwane was raped by her cousin who committed the violent act “to prove that she was a woman not a man.” The victim contracted HIV and AIDS from the act and shared her story widely to bring visibility to the issues of sexuality and sexual abuse. She died in 2005.

Nosizwe Nomsa Bizana, a lesbian who was engaged to marry Funda, served as inspiration for the second part of the organization’s name. Bizana was raped at gunpoint by five men. She contracted AIDS as a result and died in 2007 after sharing her story in an effort to promote positive change.

South Africa legalized same-sex marriage in 2006 but still suffers from high levels of homophobic crime.

Funda’s organization is trying to change African perceptions of queer women and raise awareness of “corrective rape” and other violent acts. It conducts both political and church lobbying and provides a safe house where lesbians are trained to serve as mentors to other lesbians.

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