23 November 2023 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo SUPPLIED
CoP 2023
The fourth bi-annual Gender Practitioners Community of Practice (CoP) conference is set to take place in Clarens this November.

The Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Office (GEADO) at the University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with the Central University of Technology, is set to host the fourth bi-annual Gender Practitioners Community of Practice Conference (CoP). Taking place in Clarens from 28-30 November 2023, the conference will revolve around the theme ‘From Awareness to Action: Catalysing Changes for Gender Equity’. Geraldine Lengau, Senior Officer at the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, explains that the theme signifies a shift from a reactive to a responsive approach to current issues. She states, ‘’The theme speaks to exactly what we intend; we want people to move from being reactionary to being responsive to the things that are happening.” 

In this return of the conference, Lengau notes a significant change – the introduction of an umbrella topic, Gender. This addition aims to provide speakers with an opportunity to address various aspects of the overarching theme. To complement this shift, a diverse group of speakers has been invited to discuss gender-related issues from various perspectives. Notable guests include Sharon Pinky Kekana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; Advocate Brenda Madumise, Co-Founder of the Wise Collective; Prof Pamela Dube, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of CUT; and Dr Khanyisile Litchfield- Tshabalala: African Spirituality Expert, amongst others. 

The role of the Community of Practice (CoP)

The Gender Practitioners’ Community of Practice represents a collective of gender practitioners across the 26 Universities in South Africa. Originating from the University of Witwatersrand in 2020, the initiative addresses the absence CoP’s specifically for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) within the University space. However, the scope of CoP extends beyond GBV, focusing on various gender-related matters within Universities. 

Anticipated outcomes of the conference

With an audience comprising numerous gender practitioners, the conference aims to impart knowledge. Dr Lentsu Nchabeleng: Deputy Director at GEADO, expresses her hopes: ‘’I’m hoping that this conference will help practitioners to map out ways to thoroughly deal with GBV and gender-related issues through a different lens.” The conference is envisioned as a space for practitioners to exchange ideas, share innovative methods, and discuss technologies used to address gender-related matters. Nchabeleng further anticipates that these engagements will provide attendees with renewed strength to address challenges within their institutions. 

The overarching goal of the conference and the CoP is to raise awareness and create an impact throughout universities. The key outcome is for practitioners to apply the knowledge gained within their institutions, leading to tangible results. Lengau underscores this by stating, “I wish that those in attendance will take home or understand what the dynamics of case attritions are in institutions of higher learning.’’  

As the initiative grows, Lengau envisions gender practitioners and higher learning institutions viewing the CoP as a movement akin to #MeToo and #NotInMyName. ‘’In the same way that these groups came together and lobbied for change, this is the same way the CoP wants to be remembered.’’ 

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