Speakers included female leaders: UMP Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso, SRC President Carol Magagula and MEC for Public Works in Mpumalanga Mohita Latchminarain.
Magagula praised the 1956 group of over 20 000 women for being a beacon of hope and paving the way for generations to come. Speaking of Charlotte Maxeke in particular, she said: “It had not been expected that a young girl from a modest background could conquer the world in the way that this heroine did. If we are to seriously safeguard her legacy, it should be that of someone who valued education, not only for herself but for her people, as well as the people of the world.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Mayekiso added that women of 1956 were fearless, determined and brave enough to take a stand.
“Their resilience, tenacity and courage show us how to move forward in these challenging times. As we draw inspiration from them, we need to do introspection and ask ourselves the following questions. Who are we continuing to inspire in our spheres of influence, and beyond, are we, ourselves, inspired?
“At UMP we value the type of inspiration that allows and encourages others to be more and do more. We value the importance of positive behaviour, providing psychological nurturance, building self-esteem, and encouraging the development of what Angela Duckworth calls mental toughness. All these qualities should inform our strive towards excellence, to provide an optimal environment for our female students to self-actualize and become the best they can be.”
Latchminarain added that women today have all the necessary resources to improve their wellbeing and socio-economic conditions while building a country that is sustainable. She encouraged women to make it their mission to prioritize the rights of others, children and people with disabilities.
"We must work tirelessly to reduce discrimination and end violence against women and children – not forgetting the previously disadvantaged.,” she said.
MEC for Public Works in Mpumalanga Mohita Latchminarain.
Never stop to help each other rise
The Vice-Chancellor continued that women cannot inspire others when they are not inspired. “We still need to ensure that women and children have freedom and feel amazing about themselves. We need to break the chains, otherwise girls and women will not be free. Equality, justice and fairness should continue to guide our efforts. As women, we can always be stronger and more inspirational. We need to claim our space and reimagine our future,” she said. “Maya Angelou reminds us that each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women!”
Magagula added that too many women bask in the glory of being “the first” and “the only black”, as though if they were to take others with them, there would be a resultant material loss or reduced personal status.
“Such was never the case with uMama Charlotte Maxeke who once chided her audience in one of her many public addresses: This work is not for yourselves. Kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people but live with them, and if you rise, bring someone with you.”
In helping more women rise, Latchminarain added that the government has set up a special initiative to protect and promote women's leadership and representation across society. "We are mobilizing local support for projects that promote increased opportunities for women and girls in decision making across political and economic spheres," she said.
SRC President Carol Magagula.
Keep dreaming, keep fighting!
In closing Professor Mayekiso reminded attendees of the importance of cheering for fellow females and allowing them to realise their dreams, and to dream along with them. She added how important it was for women to stand together to ensure an equal future for all.
“We have to encourage our female students to follow their dreams. Dreams are important because they allow us to embark on a serious journey. We may struggle to see potential in ourselves because we don't look beyond our current circumstances, but with a dream, we begin to see ourselves in a new light, and as having far greater potential than we could ever imagine," she continued.
"Humans draw inspiration from other humans, especially those who accept and distinguish themselves from others. Those of us who are privileged to lead should realize that when we excel at what we do and go the extra mile, will inspire others. The element of extraordinary should never elude us as we mentor and coach others."
Magagula added: Just as the women of 1956 fought against the injustices of their time, the women of today are engaged in a new frontier of struggle. “It is a struggle for equal rights, dignity, economic liberation and freedom from violence. Women have always been instrumental in the advancement of the human cause. They have played a crucial role in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. And yet it is women who always bear the brunt of inequality, discrimination, marginalisation, poverty and violence. By working together, by refusing to submit, we will achieve true gender equality in our lifetime.”
In closing Latchminarain said that positions of power should be used to empower others so that they too can get into the space. "We should not see a woman succeeding as a threat but rather as a sister who can support you along the way."
@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures ChrisplPhoto.