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With education degrees from the University of South Africa and the University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg already to her credit, Thoko Mpumlwana earned an MA in the fields of Curriculum Development and Teacher Education from Michigan State University in the United States. Her professional career focused largely on teaching and related areas. Her student activities of the 1970s were succeeded by church and NGO involvement in the 1980s, with her chief interests lying in issues that affected the black community and women in particular. Her involvement continued when she moved into formal teaching during the period 1983 to 1994. Ms Mpumlwana is one of the original commissioners of the Electoral Commission established in 1997.
Among other activities, Thoko Mpumlwana has chaired the South African Council of Churches Women’s Working Group and has been active in publishing as both author and editor. Immediately prior to her appointment to the Commission, her involvement at the Centre for Scientific Development at the Human Sciences Research Council centred on gender equity and research into women’s involvement in higher education.
She remains active in community development, the promotion of human rights and gender equality, and education by serving on the boards of Independent Development Trust (IDT), Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), Womens’ Development Foundation (WDF), South African Women in Dialogue (SAWD), The Film and Publication Board (FPB), and the Council of the University of Pretoria, amongst others.