UCT and Nelson Mandela Foundation host dialogue on gender

4 Aug 2014 - 14:15

The African Gender Institute, within the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation collaborated in response to a call from Graca Machel to host a Gender in Dialogue within the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lectureship series. The Dialogue was convened by Graca Machel, at the University of Cape Town, on Sunday 10th August 2014.

The choice of a dialogue format responds to contemporary debates on what it means to think through the politics of the day. As a nation, we face the meaning of Marikana, or the deaths of small children in filthy school toilets, dragged cars, or at the hands of rapists, and we grapple with the fact that South Africa remains a society full of economic and social injustice. Where do questions of gender and sexuality fit into our analyses of the context and our discussions on activism and strategy? Do these questions still offer robust and courageous options concerning alternative worlds? 

The Gender Dialogue, entitled Does Gender Still Matter to the Ongoing Work of Political and Economic Liberation,  was convened by UCT Chancellor Graça Machel, hosting Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, as one of the key interlocutors of the morning. The event, which was streamed live from the UCT website, included several influential and interesting speakers, such as Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is currently the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Mbuyiselo Botha who works with Sonke Gender Justice, Zethu Matebeni, a researcher and the host of the recent Queer in Africa HUMA events, and Nomboniso Gasa, one of the most respected feminist activists and writers in the region.  The Vice Chancellor, Dr. Max Price welcomed the speakers, and Dr Sello Hatang, Director of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, was also present. Associate Professor Jane Bennett and Yaliwe Clarke of the African Gender Institute facilitated the interaction and discussion between invited speakers and the audience. 

At least 600 people attended the event, including South African parliamentarians and  NGO activists (such as GenderDynamiX, Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women, Iranti, Saartjie Baartman Women’s Centre and many others.  Over two hundred UCT students attended, many of them from the Gender Studies Department.

 “We are deeply honoured to have been asked to work in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation in creating an event in which we simultaneously get a chance to honour Graca Machel, as she comes out of mourning and back into the life of dedicated and inspirational activism she has always led. She has been clear that she hopes for a true and engaged dialogue at the event, not a set of tired clichés about the long road to gender equality or the need to ‘do something’ about gender-based violence (my words, not hers). We will do everything we can to respond to her enthusiasm and courage.” says Professor Bennett, Director of the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics.

The overall theme of the 2014 Nelson Mandela Foundation lecture series is Building social cohesion through active citizenship, a topic that can be distilled into the sub-themes of: education for participation, democratic co-operation through the notion of community and, identity and alienation with a specific focus on youth. The choice to include a strong focus on the politics of gender and sexuality within this exploration of citizenship speaks to the decades-long recognition of work of women such as Dora Tamana, Lilian Ngoyi, Phila Ndwandwe and Bev Ditsie and to the current dynamism of a new generation of African-based feminist writers and gender activists, men, transmen, transwomen, women and everyone inbetween. 

The Faculty of Humanities is proud of the work of the African Gender Institute, the Gender Studies section of AXL, and of the research, activists and many UCT-based people who fight misogyny, racism, homophobia and classism every day in different ways.

Click here to access the post-event article on the Gender in Dialogue event.