Her Royal Highness (HRH), the Duchess of Sussex joined students and academics for a high-level roundtable discussion convened by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), hosted by University of Johannesburg (UJ), and organised in partnership with the British Council on gender equality and women’s empowerment in higher education on Tuesday, 1 October 2019.
Held under the patronage of Her Majesty HRH, the meeting brought together philanthropists, academics, donor institutions, and international and regional development organisations, and was chaired by Dr Joanna Newman, Secretary General of ACU.
The Duchess of Sussex, as patron of the ACU announced three new gender grants that will be awarded to researchers at the University of Johannesburg, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Western Cape who were all recognised for their innovative approaches and commitment to advancing gender equity.
UJ’s Dr Linda Mtwisha, Senior Director: Strategic Initiatives and Administration is the recipient of the ACU grant and will manage the newly conceptualised Research Leadership Programme (RLP).
The RLP aims to grow mid- career black female academics at UJ in broad areas of research leadership, which includes, among others, fund raising, developing and managing large multi-disciplinary research teams, and building international research collaborations and networks.
Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, UJ in his opening address welcomed the Duchess of Sussex and distinguished guests adding that, “At UJ, we recognise the importance of education and understand that if you want to feed a village, you must empower a woman.”
The roundtable explored national and international perspectives on ensuring student and researcher success. The discussions covered gender equity and access; strengthening research systems and the value of international mobility and networks.
Addressing the roundtable, The Duchess of Sussex said, “The goal here is to be able to have gender equality, to be able to support women working in research and higher education roles, and also to convene workshops that help people understand the importance of gender equality.”
“It is important to note that for many young people around the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, the opportunity to achieve their full potential through education can simply feel out of reach. Whether it is cost prohibitive or that the cultural stigma in their specific community restricts their ability to attend by virtue of their gender, race or creed- the ACU seeks to break through the boundaries and enable all curious minds the opportunity to whet their appetites for the experiential value of higher learning,” she added.
Her Royal Highness was also excited to announce four new Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth scholarships, which will be given to students from Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria to study in South Africa next year.
The ACU is an international organisation dedicated to building a better world through higher education and will also launch a new report on developing the capacity of early career researchers – at the ‘Reinventing South Africa’s universities for the future’ conference in Pretoria.