Kumi Naidoo is a South African campaigner. He is a GCAP (Global Call to Action Against Poverty) and Secretary General and CEO of CIVICUS: world alliance for citizen participation since 1998. He was appointed by the UN, Secretary General to the Eminent Persons Group on United Nations Civil Society Relations. He became the Executive Director of Greenpeace International in November 2009, Kumi Naidoo is recognized internationally as a forceful advocate for gender equity and against gender violence.
Kumi Naidoo became involved in the South African liberation struggle at the age of 15. As a result of his anti-apartheid activities, he was expelled from high school. He was deeply involved in neighborhood organization, youth work in his community, the underground movement, and mass mobilizations against the apartheid regime.
In 1986, he was arrested and charged for violating the state of emergency regulations. He went underground for one year before finally deciding to live in exile in England until 1989. During this time, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and earned a doctorate in political sociology. After Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, Kumi returned to South Africa to work on the legalization of the African National Congress. During the democratic elections 1994, he was the official spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission and directed the training of all electoral staff in the country.
Kumi became the founding executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), an umbrella agency for the South African NGO community. Provoked by the fact that South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women, Kumi organized the National Men's March Against Violence on Women and Children in 1997.
Since 1998, Kumi Naidoo has been the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. With a small staff of 12, but a membership of more than 500 organizations and individuals from 97 countries, Civicus is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.
Work on Women’s Issues
He became interested and passionate about women’s issues through his work with the South African resistance movement through which he met women activists struggling for gender equity. In addition, he says, “For me, it was an intensely personal kind of thing. My mom committed suicide when I was 15. What she went through in her life has made an impact on the choices I have made in my own life.”
He organized South Africa’s first National Men's March Against Violence on Women and Children in 1997. He is an active board member of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development .Finally, in his numerous speaking and writing engagements, he strives to engage his audiences on women’s issues. “In any platform I am given, whether environmental, NGO law, voluntary organizations, whatever it is, at least 25 percent of my time is directed toward the issue of gender equity…I think it is very important that if you support the notion of democracy, then you must also support gender equity.”
"History teaches us that real change only comes when good men and women are prepared to put their lives and personal safety on the line to advance the cause of justice, equity and peace. I believe today that Greenpeace is the leading organization in embracing that approach."