A number of high profile academics from across the world specialising in gender politics are at Stellenbosch University (SU) this week to participate in a conference on Gender, Politics and the State. The conference is hosted by the Research Committee 07 (Women and Politics in the Global South) of the International Political Science Association and the university's SARChI Chair in Gender Politics from 8-10 August. The conference will take place at STIAS in Stellenbosch and coincides with Women's Day in South Africa too.
“It is the first time that the RC07 conference is held on South African soil," says Prof Amanda Gouws who is the Chair of RC07 and a Political Science professor that specialises in gender politics in the Political Science Department.
She also holds the SARChI Chair in Gender Politics.
“This conference is very important because it brings together women from developing countries, or what is known in academic circles as the Global South, to talk about issues that are important to them. Very often their voices are drowned out at conferences in the Global North [developed countries]."
The conference will involve participants from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The three keynote speakers at the conference are Prof Josephine Ahikire, an Associate Professor and Dean in the School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University in Uganda; Prof Gabeba Baderoon, an Extraordinary Professor in the English Department at SU and Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality and African Studies in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University in the United States; and Prof Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a leading literary theorist and feminist critic from Colombia University.
“Prof Spivak, who is hosted by the Stellenbosch University Business School, will also be participating in the RC07 conference in collaboration with the Business School, where she will speak on the Vanishing Present at the Global University, a topic she will introduce for further discussion by Prof Vasti Roodt of the Philosophy Department at Stellenbosch University and Ms Lovelyn Nwadeyi, a social justice activist and former student at our university too. This is a topic of utmost importance because of the influence of neoliberal capitalism on universities worldwide, which has led to universities being managed like corporations and has affected the academic project negatively."
According to Gouws, Ahikire's talk “On the Shifting Gender of the State in Africa" – a presentation about challenges, victories and reversals of women's struggles for gender equality in Africa – will be of particular interest for delegates, especially those from South Africa.
“We are now witnessing how new forms of authoritarian leadership and corruption have reversed hard won gains women have made through activism and advocacy over a long period of time. This is also very topical for South Africa that has a 50% quota for women in government, yet policies made by government fall far short of ensuring gender equality in this country."
The papers presented at the conference will focus on women's activism and women's movements highlighting contemporary issues that have been in the public eye such as gender-based violence, including rape culture on campuses and gender attitudes within government institutions; women's role in peace processes across the globe; the representation of women in religious, political and national government institutions; identity politics; migration; state responses to harmful cultural practices affecting women – something that many South African women will be able to relate to; women and policy making; and women's empowerment.
On Women's Day, which is celebrated on 9 August, Baderoon, who is a feted South African poet, will deliver a keynote address on the “World of Black Women's Writing in South Africa". In the afternoon a Pakistani film titled “The Girl in the River" will be shown at the Pulp cinema in the Neelsie to highlight the problem of harmful cultural practices.