24 August 2021 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Supplied
As chairperson of the UFS Institutional Forum, Dr Maria Madiope initiated the creation and subsequent launch of the UFS Women’s Forum.

Dr Maria Madiope, South Campus Principal, hosted the virtual launch of the UFS Women’s Forum on 6 August 2021. The theme for the event was ‘Women finding their place in the workplace and society.’ In her closing remarks, Dr Madiope referenced her favourite poem, Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou, in which the writer speaks about having gold mines “digging in my own backyard”. The Women’s Forum is doing just that, by uniting all womxn at the institution in a common objective.

The purpose of the Women’s Forum is to provide a safe platform for engagement and community for women at the University of the Free State — all women, regardless of their age or sexual orientation. It is a movement for women, by women, and its mission is to stand together for women’s participation on institutional, provincial, national, continental, and international issues of importance.

As an institutional initiative, the forum will partner with the Department of Human Resources (HR) and its Organisational Development and Employee Well-being (OD) division on matters of women empowerment and development.

WATCH: Women from the UFS South Campus call for support of the Women’s Forum

Be an anchor

The keynote speaker at the launch was Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities. “Mobilise to work strategically in your faculty/department. This Women’s Forum will help you to stand together to have a common goal: to be an anchor for any woman who walks through these campuses.”

Relevance of Women’s Month: Pay tribute to more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 — protesting pass laws and other discriminatory legislation. Tribute to pioneering work done by women against inequality and poverty. Also celebrating Charlotte Maxeke; known for accomplishing great things. In a better position today under democracy to accomplish even greater things. “If you rise, make sure you rise with another woman.” Mentor/support each other, especially young women who come to university from poor rural backgrounds.

Prof Mkhize flagged a persistent issue, “Violence against women at university is still a problem.”

Encourage female students to take STEM subjects (52:00). Michelle Obama quote.

Deciding to make a difference

In his welcome message, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), quoted Jane Goodall, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

If you rise, make sure you rise with another woman.  —Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke  (7 April 1871 to 16 October 1939)

He added, “It is vital that women’s groups within our institution convene to unpack their unique challenges and needs. In doing so, we can be certain that any action taken in this regard is focused and fruitful.”

An institutional movement for empowerment

The forum will not only serve as a platform for dialogue by women but will double as a movement for continuous women empowerment. It will be a safe space where women will celebrate their womanhood without judgement. Furthermore, matters of social responsibility and social justice will be spearheaded by the UFS Women's Forum. For more information or to sign up, click here

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