Change the world

08/03/2022

Every year, on 08 March, the world commemorates International Women’s Day (IWD). This day serves as a symbolic reminder of the historic journey traversed globally in the ongoing efforts towards gender equality.

This year, the United Nations Women has declared the theme as “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, as an attempt to recognise the “contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation and response, to build a more sustainable future for all”.

Climate change, and the effects thereof, are the biggest threat to our planet and unless real action is taken in mitigating climatic shifts, we will be left with no planet to call home.

Much like the efforts towards gender equality, the fight for the protection of our environment has seen many strides, but the journey that lies ahead remains long. A concerted and collective effort is necessary to advance the gains already being made. 

Nelson Mandela University, as an institution that is committed to this cause, with environmental stewardship as one of our institutional values, various environmental sustainability interventions have been and continue to be implemented across the University. Our academic and administrative colleagues also work with external stakeholders on initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change in our surrounds and beyond.

In addition to the aforementioned theme, the International Women’s Day website states the IWD 2022 campaign theme as ‘#BreakTheBias’.  It aims to promote a “gender equal world”, that is “free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination”.  It aims to advance “a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive” and where “difference is valued and celebrated”.

Whether covertly or overtly, bias on the basis of gender acts as a hinderance to the advancement of gender equality. It is time to break these biases by calling out incidents of gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping every time we experience or witness it.

Mainstreaming gender transformation issues is another focus area of the University and is spearheaded by the Centre for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS). The establishment of the Centre in October 2019 was a way of creating a research, educational and advocacy space for gender institutionalisation and mainstreaming within our curriculum and teaching practices.

This Centre forms part of the bigger transformational project of the University in realising the real meaning of diversity in its culture, teaching and research. Its establishment was a continuation of the University’s efforts to work with students and communities in fighting the structural violence that defines women’s movement, opportunities and life chances.

While there has been global support for efforts towards gender equality, there remain some systemic challenges to the real advancement of gender issues, and these need to be dismantled.

As we mark International Women’s Day today, we call on humanity – men, women and children – to do their bit in breaking the bias against women and working towards gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach.

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