Women honoured at institute

Posted on September 13, 2012

Women were in the spotlight at the Gordon Institute of Business Science with a debate on the plight of women in South Africa and globally featuring some highly respected figures. Jay Naidoo, a founding member of Cosatu and the chairperson of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, played host and posed questions to Mary Robinson and Emma Mashinini. Robinson is the former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation and Mashinini is the general secretary of the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa. Much of the discussion focused on the advancement of women in the modern age. Robinson was concerned that women had been largely sidelined despite the fact that there were important issues facing them. Mashinini said, "Women today are very quiet, they don't challenge what is happening. They must speak for themselves and let their voices be heard because nobody is going to speak for them."

Naidoo raised the point that culture was sometimes used as justification for the oppression of women to which Mashinini reacted strongly. "You can say anything is about my culture, but my culture was not to keep quiet when someone is oppressing me." Robinson said, "It's not culture, it's traditional practices, harmful traditional practices. Oppressive traditions are not worthy of being called culture." She went on to discuss patriarchy and how she struggled to overcome oppressive attitudes in Ireland at every level of society. The debate also touched on climate change. Naidoo said, "Due to migration there are growing urban slums which stems from climate change. That's where the rights of women are fundamentally challenged." Robinson agreed and emphasised the importance of education and good healthcare to empower women. Naidoo concluded the debate and said, "The conversation doesn't have to end here.

You need to have your voices heard and become leaders. This is an intergenerational dialogue with a new narrative for a new world."

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