Courageous Conversations is a series exploring the intimate side of activism; what it takes to show up and make change during this critical time in history, in an effort to become more effective changemakers. Supported by the Ford Foundation and created by Jillian Reilly and Jenn Warren, the podcast promotes authentic engagement as a vital component of social justice and social change.
Produced by Jenn Warren, with music courtesy of Benjamin Verdery. Follow us on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.
S2 Ep12: Imposed Identities
In our final episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian talks with Mbongiseni Buthelezi. Mbongiseni is the Executive Director of PARI, the Public Affairs Research Institute, a Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation that studies the effectiveness of state institutions in service delivery and infrastructure to better support South African citizens. An academic through and through, Mbongiseni is interested in how the state interfaces with citizens in areas that include land restitution, the role of traditional leaders in governance, heritage and public archives. In this interview, Mbongiseni explores the roots of Zulu identity, and the extent to which one of the most storied cultures in South Africa was a story told to him - but not about him. Mbongiseni’s story is shaped by violence. The acute violence of a childhood spent in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the so-called slow violence of modern day South Africa - and, indeed, much of the world. In exploring the construct of Zulu identity, Mbongiseni illuminates a much wider issue: what’s at stake for the powerful when they construct stories of the past and impose them on people in the present.
S2 Ep11: I Dream Of A World
In our 11th episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian talks with Nomzamo Zondo, the director of litigation at SERI, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa. SERI is a non-profit human rights organisation that works with communities, social movements, and others to challenge inequality and realise socio-economic rights. In this sobering and moving conversation, Nomzamo offers a clear-eyed take on the state of South Africa today, offering global insights on injustice and inequality, and the importance of living thoughtfully, with intention and empathy. Hers is a deeply human take – one that weaves together her experiences as a daughter, mother, pastor and lawyer. Amidst the disappointments of surviving a system that rejects people on a daily basis, Nomzamo finds hope. Hope that we will one day be able to see and hear each other for the full breadth of our humanity.
S2 Ep10: Tipping the Table Over
We are nearing the end of an amazing season supported by the Ford Foundation, and after interviewing these remarkable activists who have so courageously shared their stories, we decided to interview the funder supporting them – and specifically Nicolette Naylor, the women behind the scenes at Ford Foundation’s Southern Africa office.
In our 10th episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian speaks with Nicolette Naylor, Regional Director for the Ford Foundation in Southern Africa where she focuses the organisation’s grant making on human rights and governance, with particular emphasis on advancing the human and socio-economic rights of poor and vulnerable populations. She is passionate about dismantling prejudice, inequality and patriarchy, and supporting transformational organisations and social justice leaders, including those we’ve been privileged to interview on this podcast. Beyond all this, Nicolette is a powerful black woman who grew up in apartheid South Africa, a driven overachiever who speaks candidly about the personal cost of finally getting a seat at the table. We met Nicolette in her office in Johannesburg, surrounded by photographs of her with the likes of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. It was a setting that made this conversation about her journey from growing up in one of Cape Town’s townships all the more striking.
S2 Ep9: An Uncommon Privilege
In our 9th episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian speaks with Ricki Kgositau, the Executive Director of Accountability International, a think tank that uses accountability to improve human rights and social justice for marginalised people. Herself a young, African trans woman, Ricki is devoted to engaging with youth, women, girls, sex workers, LGBTIQ persons, and survivours of crime in Africa. Ricki's focus is on what she calls the "intersectionalities of struggles," grappling with human rights, gender identity, spirituality and socio economics. And for her, this is deeply personal work. She brings her own experience and stories into every aspect of our conversation. Ricki completed her graduate studies in International Relations, with a specialty in International Human Rights Law and Diplomacy. She was also a 2016 Mandela-Washington Fellow of the US State Department's Young African Leaders Initiative. Beyond being a human rights advocate, Ricki is a fashion designer, an organisational leader, a wife, sister and daughter, and a deeply spiritual person. She is, in her own words, privileged. And this interview Ricki causes us to consider what true privilege really is.
S2 Ep8: Our Journeys Are Not The Same
In our 8th episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian talks with Mandisa Shandu. Mandisa is the Co-Director and an Attorney at the activist organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi - Xhosa for Dare to Know. A graduate of the University of Cape Town law school, she heads Ndifuna Ukwazi’s law clinic. Through her work, Mandisa seeks to advance urban land justice in the city of Cape Town by providing legal support and advocacy to communities and social movements. From a middle class family, Mandisa had every opportunity to ride the wave of the New South Africa towards corporate success. But she felt a different calling: she dared to know - and to act. Mandisa has made a career of stepping out of her comfort zone to fight for the dignity of her fellow South Africans. In our conversation, Mandisa takes us through her fight for equal access to housing, education and employment opportunities for all. Here is a driven social activist, with a clear sense of place in South Africa’s struggle for social justice – a struggle that Mandisa vividly describes as far from over.
S2 Ep7: We Are All Migrants
In our 7th episode supported by the Ford Foundation, Jillian interviews Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh. Kaajal is a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. She operates on the frontline of courtrooms and refugee detention centres across Southern Africa, bringing justice and empathy to people whom most of us understand only through news headlines. At a time when many of us are retreating to our geographic corners and comfortable identities, Kaajal is navigating the middle ground. A space between “us and them”. A restorer of dignity and a voice for the voiceless, Kaajal works through the courts to help chart a principled path through increasingly difficult issues of identity and belonging.