01 September 2020 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe | Photo Supplied
Carol Bouwer and Prof Puleng LenkaBula believe that the nation is constantly diverting to other issues that take the focus away from amplifying voices for the protection of women and children, hence no real change has taken place. Photo: Supplied

The intersectionality between politics, feminism, and social justice was unpacked extensively in the Student Affairs Women’s Month Webinar that took place on 25 August 2020. This was the second in a series initiated by the Qwaqwa Campus Student Affairs. Director of Student Affairs, Nicole Morris, said the webinars were initiated to encourage difficult conversations around womanhood in South Africa.

UFS Vice-Rector Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Engaged Scholarship, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, and renowned businesswoman and media mogul, Carol Bouwer, were featured in the second instalment. Together they unpacked the dynamics of being a woman in modern-day South Africa in the face of the scourge of violence against women and children, as well as the transformation and greater representation of women in both positions and institutions of power.


Challenge the systems

Setting the tone, Prof LenkaBula said society as a collective needed to come together to challenge systems that oppress, mute, silence, and make it impossible for women to become dignified and contribute fully to the society we live in.

 “If we are to promote social justice, feminism, ethics, and gendered analysis, we have to ensure that we constantly challenge, rethink, and think again around issues that we feel are withholding women from being fully themselves.”

 Bouwer and Prof LenkaBula said the nation is constantly diverted to other issues that are shifting the focus from amplifying voices for the protection of women and children, hence no real change has taken place.

 “As someone who began working during the birth of our freedom in 1994, I think back to the elation that we felt at the creation of the constitution. There was so much jubilation about it, but we exported that excitement to the world and talked about what we had attained without practising it here.”

 “We continue to create systems and amazing documents as a nation, yet we do not implement the very things that will lead to a point where discussions such as these do not need to take place,” Bouwer said.

 Bouwer said the COVID-19 pandemic showed that South Africa had the necessary resources to prioritise gender-based violence, but those in power chose not to.

 “As we speak today, gender-based violence has become a national crisis. We talk about the intersectionality between politics, feminism, and social justice against the confluence of the opposite happening. With what happened when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national disaster, we’ve realised that we do have the wherewithal to mobilise for action in this nation, and it is the one thing we have not seen our leaders do,” she said.


Part-time feminism will not help

Prof LenkaBula said rethinking feminism was needed to move away from definitions of anti-manhood in order to promote feminist ideals that would benefit the nation as a whole.

 “As a feminist, I want to promote the idea that feminists are not promoting the defamation or marginalisation of men or stripping them of their dignity. We are saying that as men and women, no matter our gender or sexuality, we can work together to ensure that we all live with dignity, we all are equal, and we all express our talents, and are able to utilise opportunities that are available to us in fair ways.”

 Alluding to this, Bouwer said she hoped to see part-time feminism done away with in the rebuilding of society after the pandemic. “Coming out of this pandemic, may our feminism be transformed by everything that is currently happening. There is a huge injection of pathos happening right now and I hope that it is not a fad like everything else that has happened in South Africa, but that it becomes something that we really embody as we go back to whatever normal is going to look like,” she said.

 Qwaqwa Campus SRC Secretary General, Nelisiwe Masango, said the Division of Student Affairs planned the Women’s Month Webinars to discuss topics on issues that affect women directly.

 “These programmes are quite insightful and uplifting. They especially encourage young women to see that the revolution is there, it is real, and it is practical. It gives meaning to continue advocating for better and safe spaces for women. Many times, spaces of contestation are male dominated and therefore women have to be empowered to contest these spaces. These engagements must be ongoing or continuous so that we all understand the issues we are affected by and advocate for a better society.”

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