‘Let us all fight for the total liberation of women,’ says UP Vice-Chancellor Prof Kupe at LeadUP Women Alumni Virtual Chat

Posted on August 17, 2020

We must all honour, reflect on and praise the achievements of women without forgetting all that is still undermining gender equality.

This was the view of University of Pretoria (UP) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. Speaking at a recent online discussion event, LeadUP Women Alumni Virtual Chat under the theme ‘UP Women: Looking back, looking ahead, and taking the lead’, he said UP runs a lot of women empowerment and leadership programmes because the institution believes that without gender equality, society as a whole suffers.

“When women are not empowered and allowed to thrive, the totality of sustainable development in South Africa is undermined. And even as we say Happy Women’s Month, we must all play an [active] role in eradicating gender-based violence (GBV). Last year, UP passed a strong anti-discrimination policy which goes to the heart of addressing all forms of GBV and discrimination and seeks to influence society,” said Prof Kupe.

“Let us all fight for the total liberation of women,” he appealed.

The event featured four influential women: Taelo Mojapelo, CEO and Vice-President of BPSA; Miss SA hopeful Dr Karishma Ramdev; Andrea Campbell, commercial attorney at Microsoft South Africa; Dr Mpho Tshivhase, Applied Ethics Senior Lecturer at UP; and Retired Professor of Law, Professor Esme du Plessis. UP alumna Nozipho Tshabalala moderated the chat.  

Mojapelo said in our efforts to eradicate GBV it is important to teach boy children how to co-exist with girls and peers from an early age. Men and fathers have a role in society to teach young boys about GBV and that conversation must start at home, she said.

She also urged women to have more confidence in their abilities. “When it comes to leadership roles, as women we tend to re-think a lot of things and sell ourselves very short as opposed to men, who exude confidence even though they are sometimes clueless. We need to give ourselves tools to empower us and demand our space. We sell our experiences short and only when in the role do we realise that mistake. We should not be asking questions; we must take over.”

Asked what the one thing she would say to President Cyril Ramaphosa is, if she had the chance, Prof Du Plessis said she would persuade the President to focus more on education. “Focus on the accessibility of schools for every child. Schools must have all educational material and be clean all the time, particularly in rural areas, because education is one thing that enables people to achieve their goals and advance their careers and make a contribution to society.” 

Dr Tshivhase said it was encouraging that women today are speaking up more regarding issues of GBV, discrimination in the workplace and other related issues.

“As women, we need to know exactly what it is that we bring to the table and know our value – we have to firmly push back when put in a corner,” noted Campbell.

Both Dr Ramdev and Prof Du Plessis encouraged women to explore their interests and not limit themselves.

“Feel free to make your own choices, choose your own path and learn from your mistakes,” said Prof Du Plessis.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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