Lydia Sono hails from rural Schoemansdal in Mpumalanga, where she is a renowned and openly gay community activist. Her advocacy campaign to end hate crimes began after she and her partner were on the receiving end of a harrowing experience, which she has spoken freely about in the media. The intention behind sharing her story as a rape survivor is to increase awareness of the plight of women and LGBTIQ+ people in her community. She looks to encourage affected persons to come forward with their own experiences, which bears the life-affirming byproduct of uniting people. Her eponymous foundation’s presence in the community is one of warmth and support, disseminating knowledge about issues such as sexuality, identity and gender-based violence. Lydia’s love for her community is unequivocally reciprocated — in 2017 she won the Sunrise Woman Award, an accolade that recognises the excellence of women in different fields.
I would encourage anyone who has a passion, drive or idea to improve South Africa to start doing something, not to wait for certification, a career or a title.
Young people in South Africa are creative; innovative and resilient; we need to recognise this in ourselves earlier on.