Michelle Festus, a feminist activist committed to working for women’s empowerment and gender justice. She joined ActionAid South Africa in January 2013 as Women’s Rights Coordinator. She believes that justice is integral to achieving peace and that healing of the self and others are essential to the process of transformation. In her capacity as Women’s Rights Coordinator, she leads and manages the women’s rights programme; including grant management, supporting partner capacity building, developing networks and strategic alliances and driving national women’s rights advocacy campaigns. She is currently a member of the AA Women’s Rights International Platform.
Prior to joining AASA, Michelle established her consultancy working as a women’s rights specialist covering the areas of Women’s Land Rights, Violence against Women, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, and Gender analysis and policy development.
She previously held leadership positions at Pitseng Trust, Gender Education and Training Network (GETNET), Diakonia (Sweden) and the Commission on Gender Equality.
At Diakonia, she pioneered a project on developing a gender-centred approach to HIV & Aids. She represented the National Land Committee at a Gender and Agrarian Conference in Bolivia and has done pioneering work in the land sector promoting and supporting women’s access, ownership and control over land. She actively worked to support women’s leadership in the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) and the Rural Women’s Movement.
She was also instrumental in launching the SA Court of Women on landlessness and poverty, and was actively involved with the World Court of Women for Peace, against war; the World Court of Women against Racism and the World Court of Women on Poverty at the World Social Forum in Mali.
Michelle holds a BA degree (English major) from the University of Cape Town. She grew up in Paarl, an Afrikaans speaking community. She is an instructor in tai chi, committed to it as a way of life; creating balance, promoting inner peace, health and wellbeing which she integrates into her facilitation and training work. As a working mother of two, Michelle strives to find the balance between family, work, activism and spirituality.