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Prof Gay McDougall

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Prof Gay McDougall Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution to the fight against apartheid and injustices targeting the black majority.

Profile of Prof Gay McDougall

Prof Gay McDougall is a civil-rights activist and an international lawyer who has spent her life fighting for human rights. She was born on 13 August 1947 in Georgia, USA. When she finished high school, Prof McDougall was chosen to be the first black student to integrate Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. This is where her keen sense of justice and advocacy for equal rights began. Her quest went beyond the race politics of the US and spread to the international arena, including southern Africa.

Prof McDougall saw to it that the aggression of the then South African Government towards Namibia was thwarted. She founded a new group called the Commission on Independence for Namibia that consisted of 31 distinguished policymakers. She supervised the commission’s monitoring of the United Nations (UN) mandated system instituted to ensure ethical voting in the 1989 Namibian elections.

Prior to joining Global Rights, Prof McDougall served as one of five international members of South Africa’s 16-member Independent Electoral Commission, which successfully organised and administered the country’s first non-racial elections. Prof McDougall was perhaps most noted for her role in loosening the grip of apartheid. She led the Southern African Project for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, where her tireless efforts challenged those who wanted to keep apartheid intact.

Following the country’s liberation in 1994, Prof McDougall spent considerable time inside South Africa, helping to dismantle apartheid laws and assisted in overseeing the first democratic election in 1994. She assisted thousands of political prisoners in South Africa and Namibia. In recognition of her tireless opposition to apartheid, Prof McDougall was invited to stand next to Nelson Mandela as he cast his ballot in the historical election that made him South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

Prof McDougall is currently the first UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues. South Africa salutes Prof McDougall for her keen sense of justice and for tirelessly working for the rights of humankind globally.