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04 October 2021 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath

The University of the Free State, in partnership with the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute, will be hosting its annual Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Lecture titled, Quality education, gender and the economy. This year, the event will take place virtually.

Date: Wednesday, 27 October 2021
Time: 17:30-19:00
RSVP: Alicia Pienaar,, by 25 October 2021 after which a link will be shared

Gender equality is a global priority and a South African concern. Among other interventions, it requires an approach that ensures people of all genders have access to and are empowered through education.  Globally, large gender gaps exist in accessing, completing, and continuing with schooling and with higher education studies. These global disparities are evident in South Africa. Gender injustices in education hinder a global majority (including women and members of the LGBTQIA+ communities) from fully participating in and benefiting from education. Indeed, gender injustices still mean that women and girls continue to be plagued by lower levels of success in mathematics, science, and technology compared to males. The gender injustices that hinder success in the education of women and girls relate to a myriad of factors, such as gender-based violence, unjust practices related to pregnancy, and gender roles that often burden women with unpaid care-giving roles. These obstacles also exist within universities that face unique challenges in advancing the gender agenda.

This year marks 150 years since the birth of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, whose heroic life as South Africa’s first black female university graduate is a beacon for gender equality.  Celebrating this 150-year milestone is an opportune moment to recognise that strong interventions are needed to remove systemic and cultural barriers that violently perpetuate inequality in every sphere of the economy, particularly those that marginalise women and girls. 

Biographies of Programme Director and speakers:

Prof Joy Owen (Programme Director)

Prof Joy Owen is an academic, mother, and Head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Free State. Formerly head of department and deputy dean (the Humanities) at Rhodes University, Prof Owen spent some time as a visiting lecturer at the University of Münster (Germany) in 2016, and as a TORCH Global South visiting professor at the University of Oxford (UK) in 2019.

Prof Owen’s primary research love is African transnational migration. Her monograph, titled ‘Congolese social networks: Living on the margins in Muizenberg, Cape Town’ detailed the lives of transnational Congolese migrants residing in Muizenberg in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Her work homes in on the complex ways in which African transnational migrants create and maintain belonging in post-apartheid South Africa. Focusing particularly on social networks, Prof Owen demonstrates how contingency, strategy, love, and habitus support onward migration (or not). 

A second research flirtation is embodied in critical pedagogy that recognises students as knowledge holders and producers through their experiences prior to and during higher education. Students are critical teaching and learning collaborators in classroom spaces, however defined. As an invisible pioneer, ‘Just Joy’ – as described by one of the students she supervises – merges both head and heart in her teaching, as she encourages students to become critically conscious of the world they have inherited and are creating, and the ways in which all forms of oppression can and need to be collectively addressed.

Prof Owen’s work, including her research, teaching, and administrative work, unobtrusively pulls apart academic and social binaries, making the world safer for the appreciation and celebration of difference – the primary marker of humanity.
Ms Zubeida Jaffer (Keynote speaker)

Zubeida Jaffer is a multiple award-winning South African journalist, and the first woman in Africa to have won the coveted foreign journalist award from the National Association of Black Journalists in the USA. An author and activist, Ms Jaffer’s work has earned numerous local and international awards. These include the Muslim Views Achiever Award as well as the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri in the USA.

In her memoir titled, Our Generation, Ms Jaffer eloquently tells the story of her emotional journey through the years of South Africa’s turbulence into a new democracy. Her second book, Love in the Time of Treason, has been described as a ‘tour de force’ and has been republished internationally under the title On Trial with Mandela. In her third book, Beauty of the Heart: The Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, Ms Jaffer tells the story of South Africa’s first black female graduate who was a feisty leader at the turn of the century, stretching from 1871 to 1939. The celebration of 150 years of her birthday took place in April 2021.

A graduate of both UCT and Rhodes University, Ms Jaffer holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York, where she earned the award for best foreign student. Until recently, she was Writer-in-Residence in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of the Free State. She continues to hold the position of Research Fellow at the UFS. She is the publisher of two websites – her own at and a second site called The Journalist at The Journalist serves as a knowledge bank providing context and history to students, academics, and other thoughtful South Africans.

Madiepetsane Charlotte Lobe is the Acting Chief Operations Officer in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.  Ms Lobe represents South Africa in various capacities in the international arena. She is the focal person for Women, Peace and Security in South Africa and serves in the Global Network on Women, Peace and Security working group. She also serves on the Global Steering Committee of the Generation Equality Forum on behalf of South Africa. The Generation Equality Forum is a global multigenerational initiative aimed at dismantling gender inequalities and achieving a gender-equal world by 2030. 

Ms Lobe has served as a councillor (1996-1999), a member of parliament (1999-2004), and a member of the Free State Provincial Legislature (2004-2008).  She is the author of the book, My Father: My Hero, My Zero, published in March 2021. She holds a master’s degree in Politics, majoring in Governance and Political Transformation from the University of the Free State. She also holds a Diploma in Public Relations and Communication. 

Prof Pearl Sithole

Prof Pearl Sithole is the Campus Vice-Principal: Academic and Research on the University of the Free State Qwaqwa Campus in Phuthaditjhaba, South Africa. She is a trained social anthropologist with an interest in governance, gender and development, politics of knowledge production, and social inequality.  An alumna of the University of Durban-Westville, Prof Sithole holds a master's degree and a doctorate in Philosophy, specialising in Social Anthropology, from the University of Cambridge.
She has worked on rural development and policy management at the Human Sciences Research Council, and lectured Anthropology at the University of Durban-Westville and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

Prof Sithole has served as a member of the Ministerial Transformation Oversight Committee for Higher Education. She currently serves as a panel member on the Council of Higher Education’s National Review of Doctoral Degrees and was recently appointed by Pope Francis as an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a Vatican-based institution created to promote the study and progress of social sciences. 

In recognition of her sterling work as a social scientist, Prof Sithole received the Distinguished Young Woman in Science Award from the South African Department of Science and Technology in 2011.

Prof Sithole has published more than 20 research papers in peer-reviewed journals, and several books. Her most recent publications are, ‘Land in South Africa: A Permanent Question; thanks to History, Law and Economics’ published in 2020 as a book chapter; and the journal article, ‘Is Decoloniality Possible: A Noble Mission, A Frustrated Strategy’ also published in 2020.

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