UP and South African Women in Dialogue make long-standing partnership official

Posted on August 27, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) has signed a game-changing agreement with South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) to collaborate on projects to improve the lives of women. The memorandum of understanding (MOU), which was signed during a virtual ceremony, is the continuation of a long-standing partnership between the University and SAWID.

At the signing, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said while the signing of the MoU is historic, it is important that it is translated into meaningful action.

“Signing this MOU during Women’s Month is historic. But we must remember that the success of our partnership depends on how we translate this MOU into real, tangible and important activities that benefit us all and spur real and lasting change. I want to assure SAWID that my UP staff are eager to get started,” Prof Kupe said.

SAWID is an independent South African women's platform committed to hearing the voice of every woman and to improving the status of women by ensuring that their views are taken into consideration in decisions that will have an impact on their lives.

The organisation was founded by a forum of around 1 000 women, drawn from all sectors of South African society, who met at UP in July 2003. The meeting had been convened by a steering committee of volunteers, facilitated by then first lady Zanele Mbeki. The convenors had been inspired by the outcomes of a peace and reconciliation dialogue with women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which had taken place in March 2003.

During three national conferences in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and a youth conference in Saldanha in December 2004, women delegates came together to agree on a plan of action for the development of their communities and to find ways to engage with their counterparts in South Africa and on the continent on similar issues. In addition to the peace dialogue with women from the DRC hosted in March 2003, another peace dialogue took place in July 2004 with women from Burundi.

Mpho Letlape, SAWID Trust Deputy Chairperson, said the organisation is excited about the partnership with UP, adding that it has come full circle.

“We are pleased that the journey of SAWID started at UP. At the time, we conducted our business without a formal MoU, it was just a relationship. Today, this relationship has been cemented,” Letlape said.

The organisation’s chairperson, Thoko Mpumlwana, added that members of the UP community now qualified to be called “SAWIDians”.

“Our partnership is a partnership of hope. We carry with us the hopes of all the women we serve. We look forward to using the skills of the people of UP, and bringing our passion to build projects to improve the lives of women. We are very excited. We also wish to welcome you all as SAWIDians. But remember that this title comes with responsibilities. As SAWIDians we are warriors of social justice, and have a responsibility to empower,” Mpumlwana said.

Prof Kupe closed off by saying he believes the partnership between UP and SAWID will contribute meaningfully to centring gender issues and repairing communities.

“Central to our partnership with the South African Women in Dialogue is the concept of ‘Dialogue’.  Similarly, the University of Pretoria is not simply about ‘making today matter’ but actually about shaping a future that is marked by social responsiveness and brimming with active citizens. Such a future is possible if we translate ‘dialogue’, debate and discussion into activities that drive change. Women’s issues and gender issues remain central to the society and the world that we need to repair, change and recreate.  This partnership between SAWID and UP can do just that.”

- Author Masego Panyane

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