Humxns of UCT – Nigel Patel

What makes Her Campus UCT so special and unique from the other chapters is that our members, writers, and students are incredibly diverse. Each person has something beautiful and interesting about them – a story to share, a talent, or an outlook on life. We’d like to celebrate our diversity by zooming in on individual’s stories, speaking to them about what they’re most passionate about and letting them shine on our platform. Whether it be just for a chuckle or to actually share some wise words, we’d like to introduce a new series to Her Campus UCT: Humxns of UCT.

This Humxn of UCT is Nigel Patel, a Bachelor of Social Sciences graduate majoring in Philosophy, and current final year law student from Malawi. This is the full interview that was conducted to share their story over social media. Their interests lie in social and economic development in Africa through law. This, combined with their passion for social change, has sparked their involvement in various projects centred around LGBTQIA+ rights, notably in their former role as Vice-Chair for Rainbow UCT, and currently as Shambhala Scholarship recipient, and hopefully as LGBTQIA+ business leader in the future. In this remarkable read, Nigel speaks to their contribution in making UCT an inclusive space for all and being part of the movement to decriminalize homosexuality globally.


Tell us about the “Shambhala Scholarship” and what it means to you to be a recipient?

Established by Dale Pudney, the Shambhala Organisation offers Shambhala Scholarships with the purpose of developing LGBTQIA+ business leaders. I am am privileged to have been a recipient of the Shambhala Scholarship for the last three years. As a law student who intends to do commercial work, being a Shambhala Scholar, means owning your sexual and gender identity while also striving to be the best version of yourself in all the work you do, with the hopes that this will help to break the glass ceiling that the LGBTQIA+ community face in the work space. For me in particular, it means being able to provide support to disenfranchised members of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as pro-bono legal support and working to decriminalize homosexuality across the world. 


How does it feel to carry the title of an ‘LGBTQIA+ student' who is a role model to the Queer Community’?

It is quite daunting to be considered a role model to the queer community. I can only hope that when I leave university at the end of this year that I have left it a little better off than when I first arrived. 

What role does the law faculty play in providing a safe space for Queer Bodies? The law faculty is working towards being an accommodating place for queer students. This largely comes down to the staff and student's commitments to being inclusive. For example, whilst I was vice-chairperson of Rainbow UCT, the LGBTQIA+ society on campus, and working with the Office for Inclusivity, our Constitutional Law lecturer, Professor Pierre de Vos, helped to draft and refine the Universities Policy for Sexual Orientation which aims to help create an environment that respects and celebrates difference, like sexual diversity, within the university. 

The landmark cases that helped move South Africa to queer equality, like National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Justice and National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Home Affairs and Others are also taught and marked as important steps in the realization of human rights relating to sexual orientation in South Africa. 

The faculty still has some way to go, particularly in providing a space that is fully inclusive of transgender students, be it in terms of administration, identification, bathrooms, attitudes and reforming the laws teaching and understanding in relation to gender and sex. The law as it stands is not always very good at dealing with fluidity of sexuality and gender. 


How do you plan on using your platform and law degree to make a difference?

I hope that I can use my law degree and platform to further the movement for decriminalization of homosexuality, particularly in my home country, [Malawi], and wider Africa. I also would love to contribute in some way to sustainable investment in Africa that strengthens the economic and social climate of the continent.