Jennifer Elizabeth Thorpe (Emerging Old Rhodian Award)

Jennifer studied politics at Rhodes and obtained her BA in 2005, followed by a BAH with distinction in 2006 and an MA again with distinction in 2009.

 Jen was raised by her mother and from an early age knew what she wanted.   She received a scholarship to attend Epworth in KwaZulu Natal and thereafter received various bursaries, took out loans and worked her way through Rhodes to obtain her three degrees.

 Her Masters degree focused on gender politics and particularly the impact of scripts of femininity on young women. In the age of Twitter revolutions, social media storms and unrivalled connectivity, Jen is riding the wave to re-energise feminism in South Africa.  Two years ago she started a writing project, inviting young women to submit stories about significant first time experiences in their lives. She then created a blog to host all the stories and facilitated a community of women sharing experiences, offering advice, and providing support to each other.  A set of these stories has now been published as a book, “My First Time: Stories of Sex and Sexuality from Women Like You”.

 She has also started where posts on issues relating to feminism and feminist events are posted.   This blog pushes the boundaries of  feminist discussion in South Africa, creating a vital space for women to publically discuss issues of a sensitive nature anonymously. Jen started this project because there are times when “a person can almost burst with the weight of their own story” and felt that there was a need for women to know that they were not alone and that there was someone out there going through the same thing.

 On her thought leader blog with the Mail and Guardian she tries to get women's rights and issues of social justice into public discussion. In 2010 she was listed as one of the “200 Young People in South Africa that you should take to lunch”.   She currently has a monthly column for, the proceeds from which she donates to Rape Crisis Cape Town. She was a finalist in the 2010 Women's Learning Partnership essay competition, writing on Gender Based Violence being one of the primary problems facing South African women. In 2011 she was nominated as one of 75 Young African Women Leaders and was privileged to meet Michelle Obama in Johannesburg.

 Jen is currently completing her second Masters in creative writing at UCT and working as a parliamentary researcher on the Women's Portfolio Committee. Whether she is researching, writing or shouting from the rooftops, she is 100% committed to making women's lives better, but she has also often taken action over environmental issues and animal rights.

 She is without doubt a strong and most caring woman, with the rarest ability to be completely fearless and yet warmly compassionate and richly deserving of the Emerging Old Rhodian Award.