Working with the Natural Justice team: Ivan Vaalbooi reflects

By Ivan Vaalbooi

Our indigenous fellow, Ivan Vaalbooi, recently completed his fellowship at Natural Justice. This is what he had to say.

Working with the NJ team has allowed me the space to learn and understand the deeper value of our indigenous people.

As another chapter in my young life is coming to an end. I would like to appreciate the moments I have shared with so many people. Today mark my last day in the offices of Natural Justice, an organization which I have come to love and appreciate for their human rights approach and their vision for indigenous people’s rights.

I walked into the offices mid-June 2015, a young and lost San child from the Kalahari trying to find my feet in the big city of Cape Town and to try and navigate my way through studies and being able to survive in this busy city. Coming from the Kalahari, this was, and still is, an immense challenge. NJ had much patience and understanding for my situation.

Working with the NJ team has allowed me the space to learn and understand the deeper value of our indigenous people and has given me the window of observation as to how other groups deal with their challenges. It made me realize that so often we are looking for what we don’t have, instead of appreciating what we do have, and to use that to the advantage to better our lives and those of our peoples.

During my time at NJ I had the opportunity to walk the footsteps of !Uxe Vaalbooi. I met people who spoke very fondly of him. People I have come to learn a lot from, places I visited with them, where we could sit down and share various ideas and experiences. As I end of this era with NJ, I would like to take a moment and thank each and every leader, traditional healer, academic, law maker/changer, activist out there. People I have met and that I have learned from. Thank you so, so much for allowing me the opportunity to see life and opportunity, and the richness of culture and language, and indigenous rights through your eyes.

Special thanks to my NJ family for taking in a lost Kalahari child and providing him with all these opportunities. More specifically, thanks to Lesle Jansen who took a shot with me, when all seemed lost. Your continued support and teachings has shown me a greater side of life I never knew existed. Thank you so much for that.

My work is not ending here. But this is just the beginning. Thank you all.

4 March 2019


Customary Use and Conservation, Traditional Knowledge and Benefit Sharing


South Africa

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