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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Gender Forum hosted an International Women’s Day commemoration webinar under the theme: Choose to Challenge, on Monday, 8 March 2021, via MS Teams. 

Welcoming the online guests and setting the context of the webinar was DUT’s Gender Forum Chairperson, Dr Rosaline Govender, who relayed that International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. She said that the day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. She further indicated that the International Women’s Day has been commemorated well over a century with a first International Women’s’ Day gathering taking place in 1911, and was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  

“International Women’s’ Day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. In this never ending battle for change, we must be alert to the inequalities, prejudice, discrimination of stereotypes and so on, and choose to challenge these atrocities. Sadly, the needle of statistics in South Africa has not shifted much to show change in attitude and behaviour. South Africa has one of the highest rates in the world of girls and women being victims of rape,” she said. 

She added that there is much work to be done at DUT and within our communities and we can only achieve this if we work together to change this narrative.

Sharing her thoughts on the topic was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo, who firstly thanked the Gender Forum for really taking the initiative to organise such a session for the DUT community. “It is an important engagement for us to have as a university, especially that it marks International Women’s Day,” she said. 

Prof Moyo also indicated that it is important for the DUT community to remember the struggles that women movements have gone through. 

“We need to make sure we reduce gender inequalities in our communities so that we can have sustainable economies and societies that we live in as well. Now, if you look at the context around higher education when we talk about women in higher education, I just want to talk about areas which are key for us. As a woman, you are a sister or daughter to somebody, you are the chief executive officer of your home, which I think is the most important job in our lives if you think about it,” she said. 

She stressed on the issue of what women are doing to identify areas that they can contribute to influence policy and decision making in the communities that one finds themselves in. 

Adding more to the conversation, DUT’s Professor Cheryl Potgieter, Head of Gender Justice, Health and Human Development, from the Research, Innovation and Engagement, spoke on being able to stand up in one’s critical spaces. She focused on the global theme: Choose to Challenge, speaking on Charlotte Maxeke, who was the first black woman to graduate with a university degree in South Africa with a Bachelor of Science ( from Wilberforce University Ohio in 1901. 

She spoke on everyday patriarchy, especially patriarchy in higher education, looking at patriarchy in research, women’s bodies as a battleground, women’s minds as a battleground, women’s emotions as a battleground and encouraging critical thinking. 

“Challenge patriarchal system not only silences and marginalises women but it is an enabler of the war against our bodies, minds and emotions. Recognise that men are not a homogenous group: the challenge is for men to also challenge as all men benefit from patriarchy,” she said. 

Dr Odunayo Magret Olarewaju, Head of Department of the Management Accounting, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics gave her input on what the day means, saying that International Women’s Day is a day to look at challenges they faced as women and create an alliance and try to look at how these challenges can be changed. She focused on challenging the limits and labels others put on women. 

“Women are naturally viewed as second class citizens and women who are seen to be too kind or nice, they are easily judged to be less effective leaders,” she said. 

She further added that consequently, every woman out in the world should dream with ambition, lead with conviction, run with vision, and be resilient on life’s journey and never accept defeat. 

In between the presentations, DUT’s Mbali Malimela from the Poetry Society, recited some of her poetry on her thoughts on women projecting love. 

Crispin Hemson, Director of the International Centre of Non-Violence (ICON) dedicated his presentation on talking on a man’s perspective on what is good about being a boy. 

He said: “The persuasive idea in our society that affirming people in some way diminishes someone else. This damaging binary of us or them, myself or the other that I want to target and challenge that idea. The route ahead is to sacrifice our investment in having power over others, and to stand with others” he said. 

Celiwe Chemane-Nyathi, Manager:  Student Housing and Campus Life, Indumiso Campus & Director of Hope Celiwe Development Organisation, chose to challenge gender inequality in the entertainment industry and the reason she chose this topic is because she works closely with young people and in the organisation that she serves. 

Alan Khan, Senior Director: Corporate Affairs, took the opportunity to celebrate International Women’s Day, highlighting the role that everyone can play in helping to create an inclusive world. 

“It is a great opportunity for women to come together to reflect and choose to challenge and to call out gender bias and inequality, and it also gives men an ideal opportunity to find their voice, to speak out and to stand up against gender bias and inequality, and tackle other issues like domestic violence, rape and abuse. We celebrate women’s achievements globally, I think we also need to use this important platform to raise awareness against bias, taking action for inequality, shine the light on the struggles women across the street and around the world continue to face on a daily basis,” he said. 

He chose to challenge the fathers raising young boys. 

“I beg those dads to plant values of love, respect and nonviolence in their sons, I implore these dads to lead by examples,” he said. 

Evelyn Siziba, from the Class of 2020, Durban Innovative Leadership Programme at DUT, spoke on challenging gender base violence together. 

Giving the vote of thanks was Andile Masuku, from the Gender Forum EXCO, who thanked all the guest speakers for their insightful presentations. 

Pictured: DUT attendees at the virtual webinar. 

Waheeda Peters 

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