The Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) made inroads by having a very frank conversation on many topical issues, attended by both staff and students. The event was the Dean's Women's Month Lunch and Conversation on 19 August.
“Women must be part of the change and ensure that we don’t only transform in terms of race and gender and the other known criteria. As the transformation initiative has broadened, we must work collectively to make a difference. Ask yourself: what can I do in my sphere of work and life to change things?” These were the welcoming words of Prof Barend Erasmus, Dean of the Faculty.
Prof Erasmus acknowledged that there are still substantial hurdles for women but said it is significant that women are stepping up to leadership positions.
Ms Nomsa Mboneli, a second-year BSc Human Physiology student and Dr Nehrene Davis, a senior lecturer from the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, facilitated the conversation. Dr Davis set the scene and explained that this is the first initiative where students and staff have the opportunity to talk about transformation issues. As Dr Davies emphasised, “Your voice is important.” Ms Mboneli confirmed this, saying that “the Faculty wants to be inclusive and unbiased.”
One of the first issues raised by staff and students was if there were softer ways to deal with matters that did not necessarily require a formal investigation but still needed to be addressed.
Another issue that was high on staff and students’ agenda was what support the Faculty and UP give to staff and students who are also mothers. It was noted that there is currently a committee looking at this issue as well as the matter of bringing children onto campus.
The matter of how to address people with different sexualities was also under the spotlight. As one student aptly put it, “Treat people as a person – regardless of whom they want to be addressed as. People needed all to be treated with respect and treated equally.”
Safety on campus remains a concern for female students using public transport at night now that students have returned to campus. There were also questions on how to identify sexual harassment.
For more information on transformation in the Faculty, and also visit the UP Transformation Office.
Staff and students were given a light lunch, and everyone received a rose to celebrate Women’s Month. The attendees also had the opportunity to take some photos in the NAS selfie frames.