African Feminist Profiles – Donna Smith – Director of Development at CAL

DONNA A M SMITH, the self-styled Archetypal Poet, was born in St Catherine, Jamaica. She received her early education from her mother – a qualified teacher, then a range of rural and urban infant and primary schools. After completing “A” levels at the Immaculate Conception (Catholic) High School for Girls in urban St. Andrew, Donna studied law at the University of the West Indies.

Donna became disillusioned with law after a little more than a decade of practice. She set up her own firm in 1993, using it as a platform from where she gradually transitioned into conflict resolution, training / facilitation, youth empowerment and, eventually, activism, which brought her to South Africa in 1999, for the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) conference in Johannesburg in September.

Upon moving to SA in 2000, she became involved in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) activism almost by default, first as a consultant to Behind the Mask, then as Chairperson for Joburg PRIDE, eventually co-founding the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002. After guiding FEW through its first five years, she returned to her first love, training and development, and offered a wide-ranging consultancy in personal and organisational development through her registered brand, Creative Conversations ™.

Donna also has a creative side – apart from writing and performing poetry, she writes occasionally for Exit newspaper, and designs training materials and learning interventions both for work and fun. She has been involved, as well, in a number of theatre and video film productions, both in South Africa and the Caribbean, including the self-produced, self-directed poem … expresses how I feel, which premiered at the Out in Africa Film Festival, 2005. Her debut anthology, The Archetypal Poet, Vol 1: It’s like that, is currently in search of a publisher.

Donna is married, with cats; and serves on the council of her church, St Peter’s Anglican, in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.

In her spare time Donna  watches series, hangs out with her wife, cats, and friends – they enjoy playing playing table games (she love chess, but their favourite is 30 seconds), and trying out new restaurants

Donna’s vision for CAL is:

  • A quiet, efficient operational machine, fully compliant with all internal policies and procedures, and external obligations, leading to quick, clean audits and high levels of donor and stakeholder confidence
  • Living our values – a true sisterhood – among and between staff, members, board and partners – characterised by kindness, respect, and  open, honest dialogue
  • We are true to our constitutional objectives, and align all our work with them
  • A strong coalition: broader membership base – more numbers, all regions represented; solid membership development strategy; members play active role in strategy development and decision-making through the GA and regular consultations in between; full complement of skilled staff; solid staff development strategy; proper succession planning; staff and member well-being taken care of
  • Continuing to kick ass and provide strong leadership in regional and global advocacy spaces – increasing political influence – respected by fellow HRDs, feared by governments


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