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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Midlands Project Management Office through the Imbali Education and Innovation Precinct (IEIP) held a virtual Women Empowerment Workshop in celebration of Women’s Month on Friday, 20 August 2021, via Microsoft Teams.

The workshop was aimed at celebrating and encouraging women to take up ownership and leadership positions in their communities while practicing self-care and supporting each other’s personal and professional journey. The attendees also engaged on entrepreneurial opportunities available for women and women-owned businesses and discussed women-to-women issues and personal development opportunities.  

This programme was facilitated by DUT Midlands Student Housing Manager: Mrs Celiwe Chemane-Nyathi who stated that they are ecstatic to be celebrated as women. She acknowledged guests from various organisations. Among them were the DUT internal community, uMgungundlovu Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college, Imbali Women In Business, Commission For Gender Equality, teachers from the neighbouring schools, Chapter Nine Institutions Officials, and other distinguished guests.  

In his opening address, the DUT Midlands Campus Director, Dr Joe Molete thanked all the guests for taking their time to attend the workshop.  He said he holds the opinion that sometimes leadership is overvalued.  

“Sometimes when people think of leadership, they think position and that it is for certain people at the top and minimise themselves hoping that someone will make decisions on their behalf. I also believe that women make better leaders than men. The world is in a mess because of this patriarchal dominant mindset that people have,” said Dr Molete.  

He added that people need to exceptionally lead themselves before leading others. He said this speaks to managing emotions, time, priorities, mindset, words and personal life, and also understand the significant difference between a traditional and a servant leader.  

“As DUT and the Precinct, we want to commemorate women and recognise their role in both economic and political struggles. Women are an integral part of what we want to achieve as a Precinct,” said Mr Mfanozelwe Shozi,  Project Manager:  Imbali Education and Innovation Precinct (IEIP) when unpacking the purpose of the workshop.  

Shozi highlighted that the IEIP is a ministerial project which was proposed in 2014 and DUT was appointed to spearhead its implementation. The IEIP is a pilot project that explores an alternative model of education delivery, based on earlier multi-educational institutional cooperation, closer articulation, and with science and innovation linkages. He also emphasised that this project is not only for DUT, there are other significant institutions that need to collaborate to build a better community. He added that the DUT ENVISION2030 stipulate that its people will participate productively in the development of our region, country and the world, which speaks to what the Precinct is about.

Presenting on Women Empowerment and Leadership, Ms Phindiwe Yako: DUT Midlands Facilities Manager unpacked the traits that make a woman, issues that women go through in the social and the corporate world and also urged women to support and inspire each other.  

“ In a workplace, let us support and praise each other openly. I want to leave you with an African Proverb that says when you educate a man you educate an individual; when you educate a woman you educate a generation,” said Yako.  

Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo: Manager for the DUT Innobiz Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Midlands, when presenting on entrepreneurial opportunities said: “The Bird in Hand Principle states that you must start with who you are, what you have and what you know. Entrepreneurship is a risk, it is, therefore, significant that you start a business that brings a solution to the table through its products or services.”    

The Umgungundlovu TVET College Deputy Principal, Ms Mary Peters mentioned that it can be seen that issues of redress, access and representation are key when unpacking the role of TVET colleges in women empowerment. She stated that this includes the provision of quality and relevant skills for employability and the provision of an enabling environment for female students.  

“Women’s confidence and self-esteem increase when they have greater knowledge, economic assets and income-earning capacity, and they are more likely to participate in both private and public decision-making. Focussed and deliberate recruitment and selection of female learners, registration of female learners into previously male-dominated programmes such as engineering courses, entrepreneurship programmes and SMMEs development are some of the strategic programmes that we have implemented to empower women.  As the Umgungundlovu TVET College, we pride ourselves in our initiatives in programme delivery as well as in creating an enabling environment aimed at assisting our female students to realize their full potential, ” said Peters. 

During a discussion session, Peters said she would be sad if the webinar was the last time where they have this kind of engagement.

“I would like to propose that under the Precinct we establish a committee or a working group that will specifically look at women empowerment and gender issues and collaborate with other educational institutions, women in business and various stakeholders to put together a joint action plan. We can have at least five programmes that we are going to look over the following year and report back on them in the next Women’s Month,” suggested Peters. 

Ntombikayise Mbuyisa: Executive Secretary of the Edendale Business Forum in her closing remarks thanked DUT for orchestrating the workshop in celebration of Women’s Month.

“Thank you so much to the speakers who shared such wealthy information, not only about business but self-development as well, may we have more of such platforms. As women from the Greater Edendale area, we are privileged to have the Precinct at our disposal,” she said. 

She encouraged women to be the woman that fixes another women’s crown without telling the world that it was crooked. Quoting, Oprah Winfrey she said: “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”  

She further emphasised that whatever failure that they have, it is just a stepping stone to greatness and wished all women a happy Women’s Month. 

Pictured: DUT Midlands Student Housing Manager, Mrs Celiwe Chemane-Nyathi, DUT Midlands Facilities Manager, Ms Phindiwe Yako and Manager for the DUT Innobiz Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Midlands, Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo.

Sindisiwe Ndlovu 

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