“August is our month in South Africa – as women we need to understand that we are here to build empires and legacies, sit at the table and fix the world’s crises, create new literature that resonates with our voices, and dismantle systems that have continued to suppress and oppress,” says Lerato Ndlovu, University of Pretoria (UP) Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy secretary. “We are here to disrupt the order of this world. And that, for me, is exhilarating, tiring and scary at times – but ultimately, exhilarating.”
Ndlovu hails from Rustenburg in North West, and is a final-year Political Science student majoring in International Relations. She says she wants to play a role in shifting and reshaping politics in South Africa. “This degree will equip me to enter the political arena and be part of the thought process that will bring much-needed change.”
The SRC deputy secretary says that while completely eradicating gender-based violence in the country is a distant reality, there are things that can be done to bring everyone closer to this ideal. She believes that the formal education system has a significant role to play in teaching learners about gender-based violence from an early age, and that there needs to be more investment of resources in campaigns against gender-based violence in communities. These campaigns should also address men, who are the main perpetrators of these violent acts.
“Another issue that needs to be addressed as we work towards the eradication of gender-based violence is our justice system – there should be more investment in ensuring that every police station in the country is well equipped to assist victims of gender-based violence and keep them safe. This will encourage more victims to feel safe enough to come out and expose perpetrators.”
Ndlovu says one of the barriers faced by women in leadership roles is the “appalling” lack of trust in their leadership abilities. She says this is related to opinions that have been deeply embedded in society and which manifest in the workplace. These opinions are centred on the belief that women are not strong enough to lead – they can have a seat at the table, but they cannot have the power to make decisions, she says.
Her role as deputy secretary of the SRC involves the administration and coordination of the council’s day-to-day operations. “This is a vital role when serving in office, helping students with needs ranging from finances and academia to social and sensitive matters. For many students, this is the first place they come looking for help. In essence, we boldly and adequately advocate for the success of students at the university.”
No matter the amount of pressure that comes her way, Ndlovu believes she has the ability and capacity to continue.
“I aspire to be one of the great leaders of this generation, in this country and in Africa as a whole – a public official of integrity and excellence, a builder of change.”
Ndlovu’s message to women is that they need to know, understand and believe in what they bring to the table. “Once we fully comprehend and actively believe this, we can go into any industry or environment and confidently occupy that space or position. And we need to fight, because the reality is that even when you get to that position, the system will most likely attempt to suffocate you.”