Ndumie Funda with French Ambassador  Elisabeth Barbier

Ndumie Funda with French Ambassador Elisabeth Barbier

Ndumie Funda, the well-known Cape Town-based activist and founder of the Luleki Sizwe NGO, was last week honoured by France and inaugurated as a Knight of the French Order of Merit.

The event was hosted at French Ambassador Elisabeth Barbier’s official residence in Newlands, Cape Town, and was attended by close friends and family of Funda, and those who’ve supported her along her journey.

Funda achieved international recognition through her 2010 petition, boasting over 170 000 signatures from 163 countries, to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe demanding stronger law enforcement in tackling South Africa’s corrective rape crisis.

Her efforts led to the creation of the hate crimes task team by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development. Funda continues to offer support to township victims of LGBTI hate crimes; providing them with a place to stay, meals, and advice to help them get through their trauma.

For this, France honoured her with its second highest national award (after the prestigious Legion of Honour) that is usually reserved for citizens of France.

In her speech, Ambassador Barbier said: “It is indeed a great pleasure to celebrate Ndumie’s work for the LGBTI community at a time when LGBTI rights are too frequently being violated on the continent. Let me state at this point my country’s concern following the enactment of a law strengthening the criminalisation of homosexuality in Uganda.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to re-affirm France’s commitment to the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality and the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The ambassador explained the history and the meaning of the French Ordre National du Merite from the days of Napoleon Bonaparte and the relevance and prestige it carries today in modern society.

Before attaching the medal to Ndumie’s lapel, Madame Barbier said: “Today, the Ordre National du Merite celebrates the efforts accomplished by distinguished individuals, irrespective of sex, social background and nationality.

“By awarding you with this distinction, dear Ndumie, France wishes to acknowledge the role you play in serving your community through your involvement in human rights, especially those directly linked with the LGBTI community,” she said.

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