What can academia do to advance gender equality in the workplace?
This was the question asked at the recent Gender Equality Forum which took place on Thursday, August 12 2021.
Co-hosted by the GBV #ITSNOTOK movement, the Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the African Universities Gender Equality Forum is in support of all women and children – on the continent and across the globe – who endure some form of abuse, every day of their lives.
“Women have been abused for centuries and Gender Based Violence (GBV) is about power inequalities. We as women need to take back our power for the sake of ourselves and our children,” said Tiekie Barnard, founder and CEO of SVAI. She added that much like Covid-19, GBV knows no boundaries, spreading by human behaviour.
“GBV is the most inhumane act that any human being can oppose on another and sadly no vaccine can eradicate it, only we as the human race can.”
Speaking at the forum, UJ’s Prof. Corné Davis, an Associate Professor in Strategic Communication, said GBV has to fit into mainstream dialogues in the field of business and organisational communication. Davis stressed that the topic needed to be brought into mainstream social journals and written into corporate governance and strategic planning.
“We need to get it written into our literature so we can approach it as a strategic issue…South Africa is one of the worst in GBV, let’s change that. What’s in it for us is the future of our country and our children. We can make a difference.”
Mumbi Wachira, Lecturer at the Strathmore University Business School in Nairobi, Kenya shared an alarming statistic about the rate of GBV.
“According to the United Nations, 137 women are killed each day by a member of their family or a partner. As academics, we feel it is not enough to simply observe and critique GBV and inequality, but to be the force for change in prevention and awareness. We also recognise our essential role in pushing for equality in our own spaces of learning and beyond.”
Ms Lindi Dlamini, CEO of the GBVF Response Fund added that gender equality in the workplace was particularly important because one of the things that renders women vulnerable to GBV is systematic inequality in workplaces and works spaces.
“There is a responsibility on industry captains and leaders alike to take the mantle of activism around gender equality and the elimination of workplace and societal conditions that keep women backwards and oppressed.”
Ms Elizabeth Dartnall, Executive Director at the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, presented shared elements of effective GBV prevention interventions which included strong theory of change, working with both women and men, participatory approaches, addressing unequal gender power relations, support for survivors, user friendly manuals, activities, well trained staff and facilitators as well as programming across sectors and at multiple levels.
“We must commit to supporting and undertaking better research to develop and scale up evidence to form programmes to address GBV in higher education that embrace gender equality.”
Other speakers at the forum included Dr Olebogeng Selebi, a senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria; Ms Immaculate Mogotsi, Head of the Gender Training and Research Programme at the University of Namibia; Dr Hlengiwe Ndhlovu from Nelson Mandela University; and Ms Nonkosi Tyolwana, Director of the Centre for Diversity, Inclusivity and Social Change at Cape Peninsula university of Technology. The speakers all touched on the importance of inclusivity, programmes and support to help fast track gender equality.
Guest speaker Ambassador Nozipho January-Bardill, Council Chairperson, Nelson Mandela University, spoke on the importance of telling women-centred stories.
Her book, Write to Speak, aims to create a history and legacy of stories of women as told in their own words. The book is a collection of stories told by women from 23 African nations about their individual journeys.