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Mandela Day Lecture - Centering Agency: Womxn Transcending Victimhood
Author: Awethu Fatyela
Published: 27/07/2022

​The Transformation Office, in partnership with the Student Representative Council and Matie Community Service (MGD), housed under the Division for Social Impact hosted the Mandela Day lecture under the theme “Centering Agency: Womxn Transcending Victimhood"

The global theme for Mandela Day this year is “Do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are.", in her welcome address Transformation Office Programme Co-ordinator, Shanté Neff shared that, under the theme, it is imperative to shed light on often the most marginalised people in society – women. “We are more than just victims, victims of crime, of gender-based violence, of inequality, of gender roles and stereotypes. This is important [because] we need to stay clear of a narrative that focuses on women's identities as victims in order to create the space for them to be viewed as anything else," shared Neff. 

Transformation Communication Officer, Awethu Fatyela, took a cultural approach in introducing the keynote speaker, this achieved through ukumthutha (clan name praises) acknowledging his ancestry and lineage prior to the listing of his qualifications. “In [the] African culture, when one is introduced, we acknowledge their lineage first – owing to our understanding that we are because of those who came before us," noted Fatyela. 

Keynote speaker, Mr Landa Mabenge, UCT PhD candidate, educationalist and Author of Becoming Him – A Trans Memoir of Triumph,– opened his address by noting that under this year's Mandela Day theme; he encourages that all may seek to reimagine the narrative of victimhood that embroils many women across the globe and alchemise it to one of autonomous fortitude. 

Mabenge shared that upon birth we are married into rigid practices, norms and beliefs that are rooted in the immediate removal of personal agency. That through such grows forced assimilation to a narrative that prescribes the evolution of life – well ahead of time. He proceeded to share the key terms under the definition of personal agency, independencecapability, power, resources and potential

In a powerful analysis of the journeys of five women, namely Queen Nandi (mother of Shaka Zulu ka Senzangakhona), Tarana Burke, Bobbi Gibb, Major Griffin-Gracey and Caster Semenya, Mabenge highlights the challenges faced by these women and how they continued against the grain of violence and victimhood as they recentred agency in their lives, communities and broader societies. 

“These women's commonalities – the adoption of their wet path of alchemy and the reclaiming of an agency of change in a time when it was not popular to do so – [with] no shared practices amongst them; just a thread of humanity, mandating a complete liberty from different systems of domination in a quest to transmute victimhood to fortitude," said Mabenge 

In closing, he noted that as custodians of our future we have been bestowed an opportunity to know and do better regardless of our respective pasts, our social constructs and where we come from. 

“We all have an obligation to reconfigure the narrative and apply the principles of wet alchemy in allowing all women regardless of race, gender, identity and sexuality to assert themselves on an equal footing as autonomous beings who were born with that right," said Mabenge ​