Stellenbosch University's Development and Alumni Relations Division on Wednesday (26 August 2020) launched a new initiative that aims to enable networking among Matie women from diverse backgrounds and industries around the world.
Known as the Stellenbosch Women Alumnae Network (SWAN), the initiative aims to bring women graduates together through mentorship programmes, leadership training and round-table discussions.
According to Karen Bruns, Senior Director: Development and Alumni Relations, SWAN was formed to prove that Stellenbosch women can be just as successful as philanthropists and active citizens as their male counterparts.
“Stellenbosch University has through the decades delivered fantastic women graduates to the business world, arts and culture and science and technology, as well as fantastic innovators and entrepreneurs," said Bruns. “We know that Matie women are extremely well-connected, have strong opinions on things and have worked hard to make their mark in our communities, our country and on the global stage. We want the SWAN network to grow and aim to run regular SWAN meetings with our alumnae in South Africa and around the world."
Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, an alumna who advocates for women's rights on the Commission for Gender Equality where she is the Deputy Chairperson, facilitated the inaugural SWAN event.
She challenged the participants to use their skills and knowledge to help provide solutions to issues such as gender-based violence and the economic crisis in the country.
“For too long we have left things to everyone else. We need to start picking up the baton as civil society and as academics," said Moleko. “Our education should be used to transform the world and to make the world better in our respective callings and sectors of work."
Dr Marlene le Roux, CEO of the Artscape Theatre, co-founder of the Women's Achievement Network for Disability and twice Stellenbosch University Alumna of the Year, was the keynote speaker at the event.
The disability and women's rights activist shared her experiences in the workplace with regards to ethics, human resource and cultural practices.
“As women we are confronted with discrimination, humiliation, and inequality. But how can we bring about change in a positive way? As a leader I feel that we need to concentrate our efforts on young people. We need to use our backgrounds, challenges and positive influences to mentor young people so that they do not experience the same difficulties that we have been experiencing.
“From a cultural perspective, we as leaders also need to look at the importance of everybody in the workplace, not only directors and the executive members. The policies need to be fair. How do we accommodate different cultural and religious practices in the workplace? What type of leave do we take into consideration? An employee will appreciate you more if you allow them to choose one or two practices which is important to their belief system and implement it as the leave days they take. It is extremely important to remember that we are not born with culture, religion or even language for that matter. These are learnt and acquired influences in our lives impacting and determining our behaviour and reactions to other learnt cultures, languages and religions.
"When we factor some of the above in with our employees, the employee in turn gives you 150% more because you care and you made an effort to understand them and to engage with them.
“Thirdly, we cannot bring about gender empowerment if we do not bring men to the table as well. We need to have robust discussions with men on how we make changes and how we are going to stop this evil in society."
Le Roux added that the workplace is not just a place for different language and cultural groups to huddle together, but an ideal opportunity for a diverse workforce to talk and share things that are important. We need to learn to practise positive cultural interactions and understanding.
- Join SWAN on www.matiesconnect.com, where we will share information on all upcoming networking opportunities and shine the spotlight on more outstanding Matie women.