Country: South Africa
Issue: Peace and Justice
Sophie Kanza (25, Johannesburg, South Africa), born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, moved to South Africa as political asylum seekers when she was a toddler. Sophie, along with her sister Louise, experiences Afrophobia in her daily life. Afrophobia is an irrational hate or fear of black people of African descent; in South Africa it particularly affects refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers. Afrophobia influences stereotypes and often results in verbal, emotional, and physical discrimination and/or violence. Sophie has turned her pain into advocacy, service, and awareness to build bridges between local South Africans and immigrants, with the goal of lowering rates of Afrophobia.
Sophie aims to educate locals on the plight on migrants, such as institutionalized red tape that prevents school registration, opening bank accounts, available job opportunities, and access to healthcare, among many other issues. Sophie’s ultimate goal is to influence the education system in South Africa to include all African history in its school curriculum and to influence government policies that affect immigrants.
Sophie has mobilized a youth-led movement for her mission. She recruits local and immigrant volunteers to work together on social cohesion projects to uplift the community. The projects vary from fundraising to volunteering to conversations called #AfrophobiaConversations. This collaborative space provides an opportunity for interaction and integration of communities. Recently, Sophie won the “I Am a Migrant” award at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Plural Plus Youth Migration Festival and #AfrophobiaConversations hosted a session, with the Department of Justice in attendance, to lobby to have Afrophobia/Xenophobia included in South Africa’s hate speech bill. Sophie’s sister, Louise Kanza, has been nominated for Advocate of the Year at Africa Youth Awards.