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27 August 2018 Photo Sonia Small
Prof Thuli Madonsela persuades women to pursue their purpose
Discovering that she was “pretty” for her purpose gave Prof-Adv Thuli Madonsela’s life direction.

What does embracing womanhood mean? For Prof Thuli Madonsela it is about loving yourself and whatever you believe is your purpose in life. 

“All of us are designed for our purpose and are fit for our purpose, you should embrace that and make the best of it,” said South Africa’s former Public Protector in her keynote address to the Women’s Breakfast. In commemoration of Women’s Month, the University of the Free State (UFS)’s Employee Wellness Division hosted the annual event on 21 August 2018 where 900 women gathered under the theme: ‘Embrace your womanhood.’ 

Being a woman today


Law Professor and Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University, Prof Madonsela, urged the audience to look beyond the exterior and recognise “that we as individuals have a lot in common”. Speaking of unity in diversity, she praised some of the giants on whose shoulders modern women stand, such as Charlotte Maxeke, Olive Schreiner, Una Wookey, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Helen Joseph, Pam Golding, Bessie Head, and Ellen Khuzwayo.

These leaders are the epitome of following the purpose of “embracing everyone’s humanity and challenging things that diminish the humanity of others”, according to Prof Madonsela.

Remaining resilient and resolute 

Despite having to contend with a patriarchal system and face challenges such as gender-based violence, femicide, poverty, inequity, media stereotypes, as well as poverty, women continue to rise. Prof Madonsela called for women to capitalise on positives such as freedom and possessing a certain degree of power, legal equality, playing a role in political spaces, economic progress, and owning a public voice.

Drawing inspiration from her humble beginnings and the lessons learnt in leadership, Prof Madonsela conveyed a simple message to all women: “You are exactly as you should be. You are a perfect expression of your creator’s magnificence. You were created for a purpose and whatever you do, just step up and pursue your purpose.”

A word from an inspired woman

It was a memorable event for Burneline Kaars, Head of Employee Wellness. “This year it was an honour to host Prof Madonsela who could share both her academic background and professional experience. She accomplished this by skilfully incorporating lessons from our country’s history and her passion for justice,” she said.

News Archive

“Every journey begins with the first steps” – Marguerite van der Merwe
2016-07-08

Description: Marguerite van der Merwe Tags: Marguerite van der Merwe

Marguerite van der Merwe, recipient of University of the
Free State Chancellor’s Medal, with Chancellor
Dr Khotso Mokhele, at the Winter Graduation ceremony.

Photo: Johan Roux

Marguerite van der Merwe has dedicated her life to the enrichment and increased quality of life for others. At the University of the Free State’s Winter Graduations on 30 June 2016, Van der Merwe and her brother, Anthony Douglas Osler, were both honoured with Chancellor’s Medals for exceptional service to South Africa and the world beyond our borders. In the early 1980s, she learned about the Alexander Technique and her life since then has been about perfecting the technique and sharing it with others. The Alexander Technique teaches people of any age, gender, occupation or interest, how to be posture-aware and perfect, how to be aware and alert, and how to be calm and discriminating, all of which are part of a practical teaching to integrate these qualities consciously into all our daily human activities.  

She walks the walk

She understood the Alexander Technique to be the perfect way to develop the body both physically and mentally, as it develops the higher mental faculties like focus, attention, awareness, consciousness, discrimination, and unfolding of the psyche, thus developing the human potential holistically as a spiritual way of being. She received her training for the technique in Cape Town and London, thereafter she published The Art of Walking, a guide to the Alexander Technique.

Van der Merwe is an internationally-certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, has been offering this work and its application in the spheres of health, education, and performance skills for 30 years, both nationally and internationally.

Van der Merwe says that the South African higher education system should encompass a holistic approach to teaching and educating. Education should envisage a modern vision of education that supports the evolution of the potential of the human being as a holistic system – a competent, skilled, caring, kind individual, developed in physical, mental, emotional and sensorial aspects. She believes that students thus educated will model ‘wholeness’ and ‘humanness’ as they take their place in society, business, education, and entrepreneurship.

Enriching women’s potential

Apart from The Art of Walking, Van der Merwe published EVE-OLUTION, a book to inspire women to listen to their intuition, and empower women to repossess their bodily wisdom, freedom, and authenticity. Van der Merwe proclaims that it is important to liberate women to take charge of their own bodies, minds, and souls. The purpose of the book is to ensure that young women soak up wisdom and encouragement and for older women to express their wisdom, which needs to be respected and listened to.

“Females and feminine roles in society and family are being liberated and acknowledged in the actions of many women as we stand for equal opportunity, equal power, and equality in many fields,” says Van der Merwe.
“Our young women in business and the higher education fraternity, for one, are strong in their views, beautiful in their presence, outspoken in leadership,” Van der Merwe concluded.

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