Sheena Duncan was born in Johannesburg in 1932 and left South Africa in the 1950s to study at the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science in Scotland. After qualifying as a Domestic Science teacher she moved to Zimbabwe. She returned to South Africa eight years later and worked for the Social Welfare Department of the Johannesburg City Council as a Home Economics Officer.
Duncan was the daughter of the late Jean Sinclair, a founder member of the Black Sash. The Black Sash is a women's organisation which, during the apartheid era, worked for the advancement of basic human rights and civil liberties for South Africans bearing the brunt of apartheid injustices.
In the 1970s, she joined the Anglican Church's Challenge Group, a movement that sought to end racism within the church. She also represented the Anglican Church on the South African Council of Churches' (SACC) Justice and Reconciliation Division.
In 1986, Duncan received the Liberal International Prize for Freedom for her outstanding contribution to human rights and political freedom. She also received honorary doctorates in Law from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1990, the University of Cape Town in 1991 and the University of Natal in 1995. She was the honorary life president of the SACC, chair and patron of Gun- Free South Africa and patron of the Black Sash.
Duncan had an outstanding career as a public figure deeply involved in the struggle to promote social justice and basic human rights. She could easily have opted for a comfortable life without regard to the plight of the millions around her. Yet, she chose to pursue a path of commitment and practical action to bring about change.