OPINION PIECE: WRITTEN BY GCINA NHLEKO
I can’t help but feel enabled and privileged to be working for a rural based university that champion’s women’s issues through written literature and through demonstrable platforms. The story of 1955 evokes a mixture of emotions about the suffragists who paved the path not only for women but for all South African for thee Freedom Charter was the fundamental document where all revolution manuscripts emanated. Each year the University of Zululand joins the country and the rest of the world to commemorate and salute women under carefully coined theme. There is something poignant about this year’s theme which is #BALANCE FOR BETTER. It calls for an equal denominator. Our South African version is “25 Years of Democracy: Growing South Africa Together for Women’s Emancipation.” This is so because this year’s celebration coincides with the 65th anniversary of the Women’s Charter.
The University of Zululand is an evident encounter and reminder of the SHE experience, she has produced more yet she remain pushed into the corner and frequently reminded that she is not good enough because of certain factors beyond her control yet she remains resilient and steadfast. How is it so when this mother has produced many giants?. The University enjoys illustrious alumnus from all sectors and spheres of life, in the era of the 4th Industrial revolution there is no relevancy in mentioning the clues as technology has enabled knowledge access at fingertips.
The positive gestures towards acknowledging and going an extra length in ensuring engagement dialogues at the University are evident progressive steps to commemorate women’s encounters. The appointment to Professorship and Deanship and grooming of young academics are evident steps towards bridging the gap of inequality. It should be noted and be a constant reminder that the trampling of women’s rights was laterally linked to the degradation of humanity for no one chooses the gender extrinsic qualities. The University at present is one of the four out of 26 to be headed by a female Vice-Chancellor and Rector, yet we are defined as limping and ailing when we are ahead of our counterparts. History will be a fair judge of UNIZULU because practical evidence has been limited in justification.
It is therefore validating that the objective of Women’s Day is to express love and gratitude towards women’s’ contribution to our lives and society. It is a reality that today, women across the globe actively participate in politics, education, social work, corporate, sports, IT, research & development, innovation and diverse fields, and have left their footprints. Several resolutions to protect women’s rights have also been passed globally, which has opened up broader avenues for the growth and development of women in our society. Women events also celebrate the role of women as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister and a homemaker. The day honours the voices that go unheard, the rights that are dominated and the tears that go unnoticed. Even today, there are millions of women around the world and locally who are either speechless or are struggling hard to secure their rights. The discrimination and inequality is still every prominent, especially in developing and backward countries like us S.A which is bending backward
Despite all pessimism, there is support for this encounter as it is a special day dedicated to women and positive contributions they make in shaping futures. Culture and ethnicity has given a new dimension to this day where the tradition of gifting presents to women is popular demonstration of UBUNTU Personalised gifts and greeting cards dedicated to Women’s Day have become exceptionally popular today. Many people think it is the ideal way to express their love and gratitude for women in life. Though, the true essence of the day lies in identifying the rights and power of women and giving them a stature that they deserve.
JOURNEY TO TRANSFORMATION – WAY FORWARD TOWARDS INCLUSIVENESS
The University of Zululand is on a positive trajectory through symbolic marks and gestures and observing national imperative dates. The introduction of women enabling policies will go a further way in validating women in the working environment. There is a need to realise what an asset women are to the workforce and make sure they actively facilitate their ability to climb up the career ladder. This can be by making sure women are on shortlists or by encouraging men to take their share of parental leave when the plans come into place next year. Women should also look out for opportunities to support and champion other women. We can look to influential men to help us progress and develop but we need to turn to each other too. We can only achieve change together and it needs to start today.
Our call to women and men is to continue the fight in all countries, because at this point in time there is not one country that has achieved gender equality. The former Deputy President: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka once said “The struggle is universal, as has been shown in recent events in Hollywood. Impunity is entrenched there, as in the rest of the world. A man can be a serial abuser for decades and get away with it because his victim will keep quiet in fear of loss of income, poverty, and stigma. The struggle is therefore universal.”
I advocate for female representation meaning an equal spread share, from parliaments to media houses to corporate boards, let us denounce the notion that Women are over-represented among the ranks of the poor, and in low-paying jobs in all countries. Wage inequality is a problem in all countries, The International Labour Organization speaks of the motherhood penalty; in many cases, in the fullness of a woman’s life, she loses 40% of her income due to motherhood-related activities such stereotypes must be abolished fervently.
In conclusion I am calling for something to happen urgently so that these issues can be addressed, and ways be found to turn around this situation in society, which has for all intents and purposes been normalised. Let us incorporate men in this change management, the next generation must truly experience a fair and balanced society like how abomama Lillian Ngoyi fought for our emancipation today.
MY UNIZULU, YOUR UNIZULU, OUR UNIZULU