An activist against Apartheid since 1974, Pregs Govender taught English in Durban, at schools and at university, before joining the trade union movement in the 80’s. She was National Educator of GAWU (now SACTWU) before heading SA’s first Workers College. Pregs served on the executive structures of COSATU’s National Gender Committee and the UDF-affiliated Natal Organisation of Women.
During the negotiated transition, Pregs managed the Women’s National Coalition, which mobilised rural and urban women to impact on SA’s Constitution. She then worked in the national RDP office, integrating women’s concerns into the RDP. As an ANC member, she was elected to the National Assembly in SA’s first democratic election. In the ‘94 budget debates she initiated SA’s gender budgeting and steered its impact on the ‘98/‘99 National Budget. In ’94 she was tasked with editing SA’s Country Report to Beijing.
Pregs was elected Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Women (‘96-‘02). This Committee ensured that 80% of its legislative priorities were enacted by 1999. During the Mbeki era, this Committee held public hearings on the gendered impact of HIV/Aids. After being the only MP to register opposition to the arms deal in the Defence Budget Vote, Pregs resigned in 2002.
Her work thereafter included being the Chairperson of the Independent Panel Review of Parliament. Her human rights activism includes being a member of the global Panel on Human Dignity. Pregs’ awards include honorary doctorates in Law and Philosophy, the first Ruth First Fellowship and the Fulbright New Century Scholarship for the Global Empowerment of Women. She has authored many papers and articles and contributed to several publications. Pregs is the author of Love and Courage, a story of Insubordination.
In November 2008, Parliament voted unanimously for her appointment as SAHRC Commissioner by President Motlanthe. She began her term in January 2009 and was appointed Deputy Chairperson in October. She leads the SAHRC programmes on Basic Services, CEDAW and PAIA.