‘We need to reinject the essence of humanity in all social institutions to eradicate gender-based violence in SA’

Posted on August 14, 2020

Tukkievaria profiles EBIT doctoral candidate and lecturer Kundani Makakavhule, who tells us why she loves investing time and energy in her students, and issues a strong call to end the abuse of women.

The call to eradicate gender-based violence in South Africa is growing louder and more necessary by the day. UP doctoral candidate Kundani Makakavhule is lending her voice to that call by asking South Africans to take a humane approach to putting an end to the abuse of women.

“We need to see ourselves in the faces of others – what hurts another person hurts us all,” says the final-year PhD student in Town and Regional Planning in UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology. “It’s a call for human compassion. Gender-based violence is not only about physical and/or emotional abuse, but also about institutional violence against the body. It cannot be fought only by women or a handful of NGOs – it requires a national systematic intervention that reinjects the essence of humanity in all of our social institutions, be it the family, the church, the school, etc. Without this, laws aimed at eradication will not yield results, the mapping of cases will not be actively pursued and victims will remain silent.”

Makakavhule is the face and voice for many young girls who want to follow in her footsteps in her field of study. This young, enthusiastic academic is also a full-time lecturer in Research Methodology for the Built Environment and in Professional Planning Practice. Her workday includes teaching, developing new and progressive teaching content, supervising master’s students and working on research output.

“I would describe myself as an extrovert who is trapped in the lifestyle of an introvert,” she says. “I enjoy people, I enjoy conversation and basically ‘hanging out’. However, I get a chance to do that only periodically because of my hectic schedule. So I lead the life of an introvert, where I spend a lot of time alone, reading, writing and developing content for the modules I teach.”

Makakavhule’s love for academia comes from her mother, who is a Grade 1 teacher in a rural school in Limpopo and whose passion for teaching had a significant influence on her. “My mother and I discuss teaching methods; we share tips and tricks, which always surprise me. It shows that teaching requires passion and care, regardless of the educational level of your student.”

Working with people from different backgrounds and age groups is exciting, though the challenges it brings are as diverse. “The challenges I face in my job are predominantly associated with my students,” Makakavhule explains. “For example, many of my students suffer from different forms of mental illness, be it depression or anxiety, among others. Sometimes it is difficult to attend to their psychological needs because I am not trained in the field. I spend hours listening to them, reading heartbreaking emails and trying to help them find stability during very emotional times, or even breakdowns. UP provides resources to assist such students, but I am their first point of contact, before I can refer them to the appropriate unit. This is challenging, because watching someone go through a difficult patch is never easy.”

On the upside, Makakavhule says that seeing her students graduate is what motivates her. “I look forward to graduation every year: the sight of my students up there [on the stage] is such a delight. I am motivated by the fact that I am part of the process that moulds young professionals who can go into the world and make an impact. I know I cannot change all lives, but I get up every day and try, one student at a time.”

She is fully aware of the barriers women face when it is time to enter the job market. “We are expected to perform excellently in the workplace, then retreat to our homes where unpaid labour is not challenged or questioned – it is just expected,” she says. “Taking up a leadership role is challenging, because our plates are always full. The fight to rise through the ranks is challenged by the patriarchal system, which dominates both the work environment and the household.”

Her advice to young women is simple but profound: “Get to know yourself, who you are and what triggers you. Know this honestly and intimately – without fear and shame – and embrace it. Once you are aware of yourself, nothing and no one can derail you from whatever objective you set for yourself.”

- Author Kundani Makakavhule is a PhD candidate in Town and Regional Planning and a lecturer in UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT.

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