The national theme for this year's celebration was Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future, which fit in well with UMP’s own theme: Engender Resilience. The meaning was best encapsulated by the host, Vice Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso when she explained: "Resilience is about rising above all odds. Women are extraordinarily resilient in even the most dire circumstances, rising above adversity to create powerful networks for change and to bring meaning to their lives and the lives of others.”
Professor Mayekiso encouraged women to never give up despite the many challenges. “As women, we must not be our own worst enemies by pulling one another down. On the contrary, instead of being trapped in the ‘first and only woman bubble’, we need to mentor and to coach young and upcoming women so that their paths become easier. We should set programmes in place to ensure that the road becomes more manageable. Equality, justice and fairness should always guide our efforts.”
Secretary to the Director of Research Management, Cynthia Moshaba shared powerful words about accepting and loving who you are as a woman.
“There are plenty difficult obstacles that cross every woman’s path – be it family, children, or career – but you should not be one of them. Be You because that is the most original being you can ever be. The world can always adjust to who you are, and even more so if you are content with who you are. Be willing to walk alone because not every journey requires friends, followers or spectators. Be kind to yourself and to others, you will need the same kindness at some point. A woman can never fail, she either wins or she learns. We make mistakes because we often make decisions. Your own mistakes are your best lessons.”
She continued, “Never blame others for your failures because you should know that your fate is in your hands. Be fearless and not afraid of storms because it is in the storms that we find our true strength. Women, you are stronger than you realise, you are more capable than you know, so embrace your strength, make your mark, occupy the space and be fearless!”
Director of Student Housing, Dr Nomvula Twaise, gave a wonderful message focussing on women from and within the management perspective.
“My message focuses on women aspiring to climb the ladder and become senior and executive managers. When engendering resilience, you take note of many aspects women are going through; of the obstacles that surround them and prevent them from kicking down the thick walls of patriarchy. Women’s participation in the workplace has increased, but this does not translate into an increased number of women at senior and executive levels.”
“Out of 26 universities in South Africa we are only represented by four female Vice-Chancellors. This picture has two narratives: One, a reason to celebrate as we are finally being represented, and on the other hand, it shows us that we are nowhere near achieving at least 50% representation. I am sure that these women here have had a great share of obstacles on their way up and may still be going through tough times one way or another in those positions.”
She also highlighted the importance of pulling each other up and not dragging each other down. “Those women up there need all the support they can get from us, they do not need our bashing, gossiping, or name calling. Let us support our female leaders. When we do so, we are building our support base to also move up. The next generation of women who have learned from this generation that women who go up must be pulled down will do the same to their peers and it becomes a vicious cycle. Women aspiring to go up the ladder, please, learn to ‘Own your story’, don’t be shy, walk your own walk and start your ‘journey of becoming’. Find female mentors to mentor you.”
Head of Schools Development Studies and Arts Professor, Estelle Boshoff, spoke on why resilience is important during these times of great uncertainty, and how women can engender resilience in themselves and others.
“Resilience enables us to fight discrimination, to believe and trust ourselves, and to stick together as women and build a better, peaceful future for all. Resilience helps us as women to unconditionally accept ourselves and others, and to feel loved and cared for amongst our sisters. Resilient women possess a vision for themselves that cannot come true without the force of their will and with the power of their imagination.
A resilient woman maintains a hopeful outlook, she visualizes what she wants rather than worrying about what she fears, and finds the silver lining by looking for the good in every situation. A resilient woman stays in the present moment, removes herself from adversity and conserves her inner energy.”
Speaking on behalf of all female general workers at UMP, Khanyisile Mahlangu said: “Women of Africa, you are more beautiful than you realise, stronger than you know, more powerful than you could imagine. Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live. The things women have yet to learn is that nobody gives you power, you just take it. The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible! Don't worry about what people say or think, be yourself. Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself, so be a first-rate version of you rather than a second-rate version of someone else!”
Former SRC recreation officer, Sharon Mlambo, encouraged with her words on being self-reliant and resilient.“Belief in yourself needs to be realistic to be helpful. Remember the challenges in the past that you have met successfully, and also those that were met with less success. You can learn from both experiences. Giving up is always the easy way out. Resilient people demonstrate the ability to stick to things and get them done. Without a sense of your purpose in life, you lack a driving force.”
Sharon concluded with the beautiful poem, Still I Rise, by the late and great activist, Maya Angelou.
@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @Chrisplphoto