It gives me great pleasure to wish you all a meaningful and significant 2017 Women’s Month. This year’s theme is “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward”.
The theme pays tribute to the women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 in protest against the pass laws under the system of apartheid. As we commemorate 61 years since the march, we pay tribute to those women leaders who paved the way for the many women pioneers we see today.
While there are many challenges that still persist, South Africa has made significant progress in achieving the emancipation and equal rights for women in the country. Since the advent of democracy, South Africa has seen a number of women taking leadership positions previously dominated by men. UKZN has not been left behind! We are making enormous strides in empowering our women staff and students in leadership positions.
Today, UKZN boasts the first black woman with a PhD in Town Planning and the first female Engineering Dean. The University also boasts seven women who are part of the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) and has awarded funding to over 54% of the female student body population, with 72.67% being undergraduate students. It is young women students that dominate our graduations with over 60% representation.
The number of women at professor level increased from 23.32% in 2016 to 24.34% in 2017 and female associate professors rose from 34.04% in 2016 to 38.62% in 2017.
Considerable progress has been made in advancing women; including foreign nationals. Currently, women make up 55.02% of employees at UKZN. Of note is that the proportion of African females at top and senior management increased from 27.27% in 2016 to 40.35% as at recent 2017 data.
The University has also initiated a programme called Imbokodo: Women in Leadership in order to inspire women at UKZN to achieve greatness. Employees, both female and male are encouraged to support the programme in order to ensure women at UKZN have equal opportunities and are protected from all forms of discrimination, overt and covert. The journey towards gender transformation is not only for women; it is also an opportunity for men to get involved.
As the University of KwaZulu-Natal, we want to continue playing a strategic role in developing women both for the betterment of our institution and society at large. The work that our women academics do has great reach in the life of the country and communities that they work with. For UKZN to remain as a Premier University of African Scholarship, it must demonstrate commitment, as we continue to do so, in the women emancipation project. It is for this reason that as the institution we will continue to create space for campaigns that are spearheaded by both staff and students on issues such as fighting Gender-Based-Violence (GBV).
Let us use Women’s Month to celebrate the milestones we have made and let us continue to make a meaningful impact as the University of KwaZulu-Natal. As women of UKZN, be proud of what you have achieved. I hope that the achievements of those who came before you will continue to inspire greatness and motivate you to make a difference in your communities and your country.
Dr Albert van Jaarsveld
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of KwaZulu-Natal