Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Celebrated feminists reflect on gender equality at Women's Day event
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 23/08/2019

The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences celebrated Women's Month with the theme Against All Odds at Stellenbosch University's JS Gericke Library recently.

In her opening address, Prof Pregala Solosh Pillay, vice-dean: Social Impact and Transformation, welcomed the guest speakers, Dean Ingrid Woolard and those in attendance.

She said advances in women's empowerment and gender equality in South Africa came about as a result of hard-won battles and sacrifices, but there is still a long road ahead to overcome barriers and obstacles, patriarchy, poverty, violation of rights and freedoms, exclusion, discrimination, violence, gender bias and inequality.

“The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences is committed to giving a resounding voice to the development and progression of gender diversity and equity, and have set goals to achieve them," she said.

Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola, Aids activist and director: Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management, said Women's Month offers a period of reflection on the status of women – where we came from and where we are going.

“My starting point is 1956 when women defied all odds to march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to pave the way and give hope and a voice to many women. These women gave my generation ideas about possibilities of freedom. I am standing on the shoulders of giants and I am yet to reach the heights achieved by my feminist ancestors."

She says feminism for her means equality and freedom for all and she therefore expressed her frustration that equal work, equal pay for women is still an issue in 2019, like it was in 1956.

“What has to happen for women on farms and factory floors who do the same work as men to get the same pay?" she asked.

But even more pertinent for women today, she said, is the right to workspaces that are free of harassment and violence, as well as the right to do what you want with your body and to love who you want.

Dubula-Majola, who has been living with HIV since 2001, said her dream is to see social justice achieved one day.

“This dream gives me purpose to come to work every day. It motivates me to ask myself each day, 'What have you done to achieve that dream?'" she said.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a former activist and University of Cape Town vice-chancellor, said the long-term odds are in the favour of women.

“We are swimming against the tide, but the currents are turning in our favour. We may not be as successful as we could have been in a society not dominated by a masculine cultural orientation, yet we have scaled many barriers in our paths. A lot of negative energy has and is being expended not to push for greater excellence, but just to ensure survival. The loser is society, the future and next generations."

However she said dealing with unnecessary distractions present opportunities to learn about how to deal with perceived winners and losers in the transformation process.

Ramphele said in celebrating Women's Month women need to remind themselves that traits that are associated with the feminine in them that have enabled women from ancient times, and over many generations, to lead with purpose, are now sought after in the 21st century.

“These traits have been found to be exhibited by successful entrepreneurs, leaders, organisers, and innovators. They are: honesty, empathy, nurture, putting others before self, inclusive decision-making, patience and capacity for communication and collaboration," she said.

Prof Josephine Musango, Trilateral SARChI Chair holder in Mainstreaming Gender for Energy Security in Poor Urban Environments at the School of Public Leadership, shared her understanding and interpretation of success, which, she said, applies to the Against All Odds theme. This was based on her experiences and contributions in the System Dynamics field, which has guided her to focus on her highest purpose.

She expanded on nine success principles from a new book that she is currently writing.

Colette Clark, deputy director-general of research and policy analysis: Department of Public Service and Administration, reflected on the lack of women in senior positions in the South African public service and how their authority is being undermined by men.

“We cannot become inclusive if our focus is about otherness. We cannot repair anything if we are not shaming the barriers that stop us from doing what we are supposed to do. After 25 years (of democracy) we have no excuses not to bring about the changes we want in our environments," said Clark.

It is clear that these women will continue their concerted efforts to promote change in every facet of life.

  • Photo by Anton Jordaan: F.l.t.r. are the organisers of the Women's Day Celebration, Mrs Lesinda Daniels and Prof Solosh Pillay, Vice-Dean: Social Impact and Transformation, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences; with the speakers, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, former activist and Vice-Chancellor of UCT; Prof Josephine Musango of the SU School of Public Leadership; Mrs Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola, Aids activist and Director: Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management at SU; Ms Colette Clark, Deputy Director-General: Research and Policy Analysis, Department of Public Service and Administration; and the Dean of the SU Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Prof Ingrid Woolard.​