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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Gender bias still rife in African Universities
2007-08-03

 

 At the lecture were, from the left: Prof. Magda Fourie (Vice-Rector: Academic Planning), Prof. Amina Mama (Chair: Gender Studies, University of Cape Town), Prof. Engela Pretorius (Vice-Dean: Humanties) and Prof. Letticia Moja (Dean: Faculty of Health Sciences).
Photo: Stephen Collett

Gender bias still rife in African Universities

Women constitute about 30% of student enrolment in African universities, and only about 6% of African professors are women. This is according to the chairperson of Gender Studies at the University of Cape Town, Prof Amina Mama.

Prof Mama was delivering a lecture on the topic “Rethinking African Universities” as part of Women’s Day celebrations at the University of the Free State (UFS) today.

She says the gender profile suggests that the majority of the women who work in African universities are not academics and researchers, but rather the providers of secretarial, cleaning, catering, student welfare and other administrative and support services.

She said that African universities continue to display profound gender bias in their students and staffing profiles and, more significantly, are deeply inequitable in their institutional and intellectual cultures. She said women find it difficult to succeed at universities as they are imbued with patriarchal values and assumptions that affect all aspects of life and learning.

She said that even though African universities have never excluded women, enrolling them presents only the first hurdle in a much longer process.

“The research evidence suggests that once women have found their way into the universities, then gender differentiations continue to arise and to affect the experience and performance of women students in numerous ways. Even within single institutions disparities manifest across the levels of the hierarchy, within and across faculties and disciplines, within and between academic and administrative roles, across generations, and vary with class and social background, marital status, parental status, and probably many more factors besides these”, she said.

She lamented the fact that there is no field of study free of gender inequalities, particularly at postgraduate levels and in the higher ranks of academics. “Although more women study the arts, social sciences and humanities, few make it to professor and their research and creative output remains less”, she said.

Prof Mama said gender gaps as far as employment of women within African universities is concerned are generally wider than in student enrolment. She said although many women are employed in junior administrative and support capacities, there continues to be gross under-representation of women among senior administrative and academic staff. She said this disparity becomes more pronounced as one moves up the ranks.

“South African universities are ahead, but they are not as radically different as their policy rhetoric might suggest. A decade and a half after the end of apartheid only three of the 23 vice-chancellors in the country are women, and women fill fewer than 30% of the senior positions (Deans, Executive Directors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors)”, she said.

She made an observation that highly qualified women accept administrative positions as opposed to academic work, thus ensuring that men continue to dominate the ranks of those defined as ‘great thinkers’ or ‘accomplished researchers’.

“Perhaps women simply make realistic career choices, opting out of academic competition with male colleagues who they can easily perceive to be systematically advantaged, not only within the institution, but also on the personal and domestic fronts, which still see most African women holding the baby, literally and figuratively”, she said

She also touched on sexual harassment and abuse which she said appears to be a commonplace on African campuses. “In contexts where sexual transactions are a pervasive feature of academic life, women who do succeed are unlikely to be perceived as having done so on the basis of merit or hard work, and may be treated with derision and disbelief”, she said.

She, however, said in spite of broader patterns of gender and class inequality in universities, public higher education remains a main route to career advancement and mobility for women in Africa.

“Women’s constrained access has therefore posed a constraint to their pursuit of more equitable and just modes of political, economic and social development, not to mention freedom from direct oppression”, she said.

Prof Mama concluded by saying, “There is a widely held agreement that there is a need to rethink our universities and to ensure that they are transformed into institutions more compatible with the democratic and social justice agendas that are now leading Africa beyond the legacies of dictatorship, conflict and economic crisis, beyond the deep social divisions and inequalities that have characterised our history”.

She said rethinking universities means asking deeper questions about gender relations within them, and taking concerted and effective action to transform these privileged bastions of higher learning so that they can fulfil their pubic mandate and promise instead of lagging behind our steadily improving laws and policies.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt.stg@ufs.ac.za  
02 August 2007
 

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