Seminar Explores the Role of Women in Eradicating Gender-Based Violence and Femicide
UKZN’s Department of Student Residences Affairs (DSRA) hosted a leadership seminar that explored the role of women in eradicating Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and femicide.
Introducing the purpose of the day, event organiser, Residence Life Co-ordinator and student development practitioner, Ms Qhamo Gumede highlighted her Department’s role in implementing holistic development programmes for students and acknowledged the HIV/AIDS Unit for always lending a helping hand in these endeavours.
She noted GBV and femicide as global pandemics, saying: ‘We are here not just to celebrate but to capacitate each other as leaders, making sure that we find solutions to this pandemic.’
Mrs Sisana Machi, DSRA interim Director, said she was excited about the event, with GBV and femicide being issues close to her heart. Welcoming guests, she highlighted some of the most horrific GBV acts that have taken place in South Africa, namely the Krugerdorp rapes and the murders of Uyinene “Nene” Mrwetyana, Tshegofatso Pule and Nosicelo Mtebeni. Recalling her own painful experience of dealing with students who had been subjected to GBV, she called on residence leaders to use the seminar to learn, identify, address and respond to GBV and be better equipped with the tools, skills and information to fight the scourge.
The event, facilitated by Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo, acting Academic Leader for Community Engagement, included panellists Ms Kwena Tlhaku, master’s student and DSRA residence assistant; Dr Siyabonga Nzimande, public health expert and mental health practitioner; and Ms Ongezwa Mbele, Drama and Performance Studies lecturer at UKZN.
Defining “red flags” as ‘things that don’t sit well and aren’t healthy behaviour from your partner.’ Tlhaku acknowledged how relationships ought to be safe spaces where one feels secure. Noting the importance of identifying toxic behaviours, she urged women to recognise their value and worth in order to have the courage to leave spaces that no longer serve them. She also encouraged parents to instil confidence and an understanding of their own value in their daughters from a young age and for students to break unhealthy family cycles by choosing and wanting better for themselves.
Nzimande reviewed an individual’s worldview - which stems largely from their upbringing - and the mental health associated with that which needs to be changed. He called for gender roles to be decoded and for the socio-economic injustices faced by girls to be addressed. Stressing the importance of understanding “who you are”, Nzimande said individuals, especially males, needed to recognise that self-development goes beyond your surname and culture, but looks at your values and what you contribute to society. ‘Before you transition into changing the world, first find the foundation of who you are.’
Mbele discussed the importance of men being allowed to feel and the need to disrupt pedagogies of culture. Highlighting her involvement in the Total Shutdown, she noted the strength of women being able to come together and their sense of urgency in requiring new leadership. Mbele evaluated the far-reaching scourge of GBV and questioned how they can begin to address these issues holistically as teachers and leaders. She also focused on how today’s issues are intersectional and require individuals to constantly check in with themselves in order to heal. As an academic who is learning from her students, she said: ‘We are unlearning to relearn so we can learn.’
Turning her focus on “love-bombing”, where one attempts to influence you through demonstrations of excessive admiration, attention and affection, Tlhaku urged women to recognise the power of manipulation and be independent.
Imploring students to avoid putting themselves in unnecessary situations due to peer pressure, Nzimande said: ‘When you get into a relationship, don’t do it to please anyone, you are there for yourself and if love is no longer served, learn to leave the table.’ He called on women to stop mothering men in relationships and evaluated how men cannot claim to have changed their behaviour without complete repentance. He also noted how GBV is not only physical, but also extends to emotional and verbal abuse as well.
Mbele said the future looked bright because of the student’s engagement which shows that the youth are grounded individuals who can think for themselves and listen to others. She also called on residence leaders to take the principle of Ubuntu and implement it in their roles going forward.
Kgari-Masondo acknowledged the strength of women leaders in the DSRA and their need to constantly be aware of signs that a student might be going through abuse or suffering from mental health issues. She encouraged students to abstain from sex and avoid substance abuse and noted the importance of being able to teach others how to treat you. Kgari-Masondo said GBV and femicide are dehumanising acts, urging everyone to take a stand she said, ‘We are all going through something, so we need to be kind to each other and love one another, and represent UKZN well as leaders.’
A Q&A session included questions and comments from Ms Pinky Mnyaka, an HIV Counsellor at UKZN who called on the University to provide safe spaces for female students who had reported cases of GBV and rape. She urged parents to stop raising kids in hierarchies where boy children are valued most and for women to start communicating what they want in order for change to happen. Mnyaka also discussed the need for programmes that impact behavioural change and how women need to support each other more.
Mr Kwanele Melani, a master’s student in Linguistics, introduced the Men of Virtue programme as an organisation for staff and students aimed at fighting GBV, femicide and homophobia. He said the programme offers men support, a shoulder to cry on, encourages them to be better and take accountability for their actions, and empowers them to talk about their issues. He encouraged others to look out for their upcoming events and participate in a Men’s Pledge on 3 September - for women to feel safe and protected.
Closing off the event, Dr Mabuyi Gumede, lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, thanked the DSRA for hosting this event, the speakers for offering their expertise, and the students for attending. She encouraged residence leaders to be agents of change going forward by implementing initiatives learnt on the day.
Guests were treated to the sweet sounds of N’den.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela
Photographs: Sethu Dlamini