Change the world


Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a lot has been said about the global pandemic and its impact on society. Experts and commentators alike have added theirs to the multitude of voices on the impact of the virus that has taken place over the world, and proven to go beyond just a health issue, but a social one too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed society to re-imagine space, community, life and engagement as it grapples with the concept of social or physical distancing, which may be a reality for some time to come.

Through the weekly Online Reading with the Author series, taking place virtually every Friday, Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS) has created a digital space to engage, ask questions, make meaning and develop new tools of understanding the current crisis.

Centre Interim Director Dr Babalwa Magoqwana, a sociologist, said the online conversations, which began in April, are a means to enable gender scholars across the country to converse and make meaning of different topics related to gender, transformation and sexuality.

“Through this digital platform, the Centre seeks to build a community of gender scholars to allow students, community members, academics and practitioners to engage and discuss current societal issues,” said Dr Magoqwana.

The online conversations, taking place over video conferencing platform Zoom, sees authors engaging publics on a variety of topics falling within an umbrella theme. The online series began with conversations under the theme of Health and Gender throughout April, followed by the May series that looked at workers and, in particular, women at the frontline during this precarious time.

In celebration of Youth Month in June, the weekly conversations will see academics, student activists and former student leaders engaging under the theme “Youth and Gender: Continuities, Ruptures and Opportunities in post-Apartheid South Africa”.

This series will see a variety of speakers from across the country contributing to the theme, with a special panel discussion scheduled for the June 16 commemoration with speakers from different sectors of the economy.

Speakers include the University of Johannesburg’s Dr Gcobani Qambela, University of Cape Town’s Xolisa Guzula, Stellenbosch University’s Dr Mosa Phadi and Gogo Londiwe Nompilo Mntambo from Rhodes University.

“Last month, we looked at Women, Work and Mobility, not only to commemorate Workers’ Month, but also raise questions around women’s work that continues to carry society through the COVID-19 period mostly in the retail and health sector,” said Dr Magoqwana.

“These CWGS discussions attempt to push us to think about mobility and movement during the time of lockdown as the working class – mostly black women – are required to serve the community through the retail sector.”

The May readings started off with Dr Asanda Benya on “The Invisible Hands Women in Marikana”; followed by Athambile Masola on “Bantu Women on the Move: Black Women and the Politics of Mobility in the Bantu World”; then Dr Darlene Miller on “New Regional Imaginaries in post-Apartheid Southern Africa – Retail Workers at a Shopping Mall in Zambia”; and will close off with Prof Bridget Kenny on “Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in SA” reading this Friday (29 May 2020).

“We see this as a sustainable project to link up scholars in different geographical spaces into one space. The digital move makes these critical engagements accessible to a variety of people anywhere in the world,” said Dr Magoqwana.

The Centre has also partnered with Rhodes University’s Politics and International Relations Department to look at Women, Liberation and Populisms in July, with speakers from across the continent.

There is also an online colloquium planned for August in celebration of Women’s Month, focusing on African Women’s Intellectual Histories. The colloquium is a partnership between the CWGS, Rhodes University and the University of Pretoria, which will culminate in an edited book on this theme.

For September, the Centre will collaborate with various entities on matters of Arts, Heritage and Gender.

These are all part of the sustained methods by the Centre in keeping the academic project going under the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

The Centre was launched at Mandela University in October 2019 with the express aim of mainstreaming gender issues in learning and teaching, and providing an inclusive ‘gender agenda’ that is informed by the broader transformation project of the university in creating a more humane and equal society.

Since launching, the Centre has worked towards developing a research and scholarship agenda informed by the Centre’s key principles, providing a space for collaborative pro-active awareness programmes in dealing with gender-based violence on campus, while centring gender and the dignity of women and other sexual minorities. 

Earlier this year, the Centre hosted former Malawian president, Dr Joyce Banda, and, as part of its programmatic work, hosted a master class with its visiting professor, Prof Zethu Matebeni, on Queering Politics in Africa.



Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777