09 September 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Silent march
Students and staff marched in solidarity with other South African universities against gender-based violence.

“Now is a time for us as men to say from the bottom of our hearts that indeed we are ashamed. Not only are we ashamed, we will speak and act against any form of violence. The very same people you see here are the very same people we need to protect, and if we do not protect them then we are rotten fruits,” said Katleho Lechoo, President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at a silent march against gender-based violence held on the Bloemfontein Campus.

On Friday 6 September 2019, the University of the Free State (UFS) executive management and the SRC suspended all academic activities on its three campuses as a gesture of solidarity with the national movement opposing the rape, murder, and abuse of women across the country. A prayer service was also held on the Qwaqwa Campus. The UFS community came out in numbers to mourn victims and stand in support with survivors and those affected by gender-based violence

Remembering Uyinene, Jesse, and many others
Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said the recent rape and murder of 19-year-old Media and Film Studies student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Uyinene Mrwetyana, and the murder of University of Western Cape (UWC) student, Jesse Hess, are painful reminders of the pervasive nature of misogyny and patriarchal violence that impedes the freedom of women in South Africa. “The UFS stands in solidarity with UCT and UWC and all other SA universities that are currently steeped in this national crisis,” he said.

Prof Petersen then called on the Department of Higher Education, civil society, the business sector, and all other roleplayers to actively contribute to efforts to eradicate gender violence. “As a university, we call specifically on the city of Bloemfontein, the mayor, members of local government, the South Africa Police Service and all inhabitants to assist us in making our city safe.”

Reading from the statement of commitment declaring the position of the UFS, Prof Petersen said: “In light of the ongoing violence against women and the recent surge of femicide in SA, the UFS commits itself to challenge, fight, and eradicate all forms of gender-based violence on its campuses and in our country.”

Cry our beloved country
At the end of the proceedings, Prof Puleng LenkaBula called for change, following emotive addresses by student leaders. “The poem and the speeches that have been made are demonstrative of the woundedness of our hearts, of our souls, of our bodies, and the fact that women’s bodies have been made a battleground. Therefore as a university it is important that we recommit ourselves to ensuring that our legs and our thighs do not define us but who we are as human beings is respected,” said the Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement.

“Enough is enough!”

Related:


University of the Free State's position on Gender-Based violence






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