Giving Up was Never an Option for Emma Smith Scholarship Recipient

Master of Laws student, Ms Zinhle Koza, is the proud recipient of the Emma Smith Scholarship which will enable her to study abroad.

Koza, who received her LLB with 14 distinctions, said that she faced many financial challenges during her studies, but was determined not to let this hinder her progress.

‘I am one of seven children and the first of my siblings to attend university. As the breadwinner, my older sister, Amanda (who was 26-years-old at the time) had to provide for our family and myself throughout my first-year,’ said Koza.

Despite being in constant fear of financial exclusion, she decided that she would overcome her dire circumstances by continually striving for academic excellence.

‘When I left home for university, I was aware of the sacrifices that my family was making. Fortunately, at the end of first-year, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) awarded me a full bursary, which was instrumental in my completing my tertiary studies,’ said Koza.

Apart from her studies, the 23-year-old who hails from Magabheni, a small township in Umkomaas, is passionate about community outreach. She is the founder of the Zinhle Koza Foundation, a community development project established to uplift and empower marginalised communities, with an emphasis on the youth and women.

She is a Women of Fortitude Ambassador, a campaign that seeks to encourage the current generation of young South Africans to continue MaSisulu’s legacy of activism through 100 women ambassadors. This initiative aims to promote social cohesion and women empowerment and to recognise women across all sectors who have courageously and successfully broken barriers by contributing to building the South Africa envisaged in our democratic Constitution. The #WomenofFortitude campaign uses stories of past and present heroines to inspire other women to take charge of their own development, and reignite passion in women to recommit themselves to the values and principles of MaSisulu.

Koza is also the secretary of the Restoration of Hope organisation where her role involves regularly visiting high schools around Umlazi informing and motivating students about the different issues they face and might encounter in life after matriculating. She is the former Mentorship Programme Co-ordinator for UKZN’s Students for Law and Social Justice.

‘Empowering women to reach their desired goals is mandatory and ensuring that my experience/expertise and knowledge are disseminated to serve a bigger purpose is paramount. The first step is working towards the Zinhle Koza Foundation achieving international status so that it can harness the necessary resources to impact women’s lives on a larger scale,’ she said.

With Constitutional Theory, Law and Litigation as her fields of interest, Koza is looking forward to using the scholarship to explore her passion for women empowerment.

‘My research is centred on gender and reparations for human rights violations in Africa. Reparations programmes that seek to provide for victims of gross and systematic human rights violations are becoming an increasingly frequent feature of transitional and post-conflict processes. Given that women represent a large proportion of the victims of these conflicts and experience conflict in a distinct manner, it’s crucial to examine whether such programmes can be designed to assert their rights more fairly and efficiently,’ she said.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo
Photograph: Sthabiso Mkhonza