In South Africa, the month of August is a National Women’s Month. This is an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and the important role that women of all races have played and continue to play in South African society. It is for these reasons that this year the University of Venda (UNIVEN) ’s Department of Human Resources organised Women Celebration event under the theme ‘Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future’. The celebration took place on Microsoft Teams on 25 and 26 August 2021.
The aim of this event was to empower women with knowledge because without knowledge there would be no means of advancement. A community without knowledge shall perish. The event attracted knowledgeable great speakers who were drawn from different fields such as law, psychology, and health. These knowledgeable speakers were all females imparting valuable knowledge to their fellow women.
The four speakers critically reflected on four different sub – topics: A Woman and Mental Health; Work Life Balance; The Promotion and Protection of Women’s Rights in Customary Marriages and Succession in the Post-Apartheid South Africa; and Men and Sex.
On the first day of the celebration, Dr Angelina Maphula, a Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at UNIVEN presented about ‘A Woman and Mental Health’. Dr Maphula had a lengthy, crucial discussion around this topic. This is the aspect of health that hit most of the women. She said women habitually put on make-up to enhance beauty and people believe that everything is going well in their lives, while hiding that they are abused, depressed and unhappy. Dr Maphula indicated that mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how women think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness, it is essential to one’s overall health and quality of life. Women by virtue of their role tend to worry about everything and everyone (worry about the children‘s progress or behaviours, the husband, family, etc) and amidst COVID-19 the pressure is heightened with devastating stressors. Given the tremendous stress that women go through, self-care can play a role in maintaining optimal mental health. She also highlighted that intentional self-love or care means that women should take time to do things and activities that stimulate and improve both physical and mental health. When it comes to one’s mental health, self-care can help in managing stress, lower risk of illness, and increase one’s energy. Even small acts of self-care in one’s daily life can have a big impact. Another emphasis was that women must pay attention to signs and symptoms. When the body begins to send signals, it is time to reflect and address life stressors, ignoring problems, going to a shopping spree, over-eating, emotional outburst and shouting seldom resolve problems. She discouraged women to judge each other. “Instead, women were seen as game changers because they are influential and capable.” As she was concluding, She mentioned that women need to stay connected, reach out to friends, loved ones, Pastors, health care workers or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
Ms Andiswa Lefakane from CareWays unpacked the topic on Work Life Balance. She started her presentation by saying that in Work life balance there is no one size fits all. She advised women to never try to be everything to people to prove a point. “Focus on your strengths.” Ms Lefakane said that to live a work life balance you need to prioritise your tasks. According to Ms Lefakane, the balance of your life has the element of spirituality, career, family, financial, health, personal growth, recreation, etc. She also spoke about the issue of beliefs that keep most people stuck. She highlighted that, when personal issues arise, it can be tempting to bury yourself in your work. “Don’t do it if you don’t make time for your personal life, your “me” time, including your family and your health. Set work hours for yourself and do everything in your power to stick to them. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be working until midnight every night.” As she was concluding her talk, she encouraged employees to make use of the services of EHWP that are for free because CareWays is UNIVEN’s official Employee Health and Wellness Programme (EHWP) service provider. “Let’s commit to the self-love and honour ourselves”, she concluded.
On day two of the celebration, Ms Zama Mopai, a Customary Law lecturer and expert in the Department of Public Law at UNIVEN discussed matters of ‘The Promotion and Protection of Women’s Rights in Customary Marriages and Succession in the Post-Apartheid South Africa’.
Ms Mopai spoke about the way customary law is developing itself through legislation and judicial decisions to promote gender equality by promoting women’s rights. She explained that the most ground-breaking cases have been on issues relating to property rights in marriage and traditional leadership where women are afforded equal opportunities and entitlement as their male counterparts. Ms Mopai discussed few other practical legal issues pertaining to customary marriages and succession, to enlighten women on their legal standing and rights. She also warned against ignorance of the law and negligence with customary law issues as many of them have legal implications. The discussion related to Customary Law was also a wakeup call to people to put together their valid wills while they are still alive for the sake of their children and loved ones. Attendees were also advised that it is important to register their customary marriage for certainty. Ms Mopai urged people to take customary law seriously as a significant source of law. Many South Africans still subscribe to customary law on a day-to-day basis. She further assured the people that customary law is still relevant and useful and that if anyone has a matter before the courts of law involving customary law, they have the constitutional right to have that matter settled using the applicable customary law principles instead of the common law or any other law that does not consider customary law interests.
This women celebration event was very interactive and enabled attendees to ask peculiar customary law-related questions. The questions, which touched on succession, the status of customary law in the constitutional era, the possible codification of customary law, customary marriages, and other related questions were answered in a responsible manner.
The last speaker on day two was Dr Takalani Makulana who is a Gynaecologist. Dr Makulana shared information on Men and Sex. She indicated that women need to be loved and cherished, and this is often through verbal signs of affection. “Men, on the other hand, are very straightforward and almost primal in their needs.” The importance of sex for men is different to women. She said men need to have sex in a relationship because it shows strength and unity. She highlighted the importance of sex in a relationship as is paramount because it is a pathway to build an emotional intimacy too. “This is your connection, this is your bond, and this is how you show that you love each other. It was observed that it is a taboo as Africans to speak about sex openly. It is perceived as something that should happen in the dark and this should not be in that way.” Dr Makulana advised women to go for pap smear at least once in a year or depending on their Medical Doctor’s advice. In this way, women were encouraged to take care for themselves and go for medical check – up more often.
The Executive Dean, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, Professor Ntebogeng Mokgalaka-Fleischmann welcomed participants on day one while the Director of Human Resources, Mrs Uanda Ndou proposed a vote of thanks. On day two, Mrs Ndou handled the item of the purpose of the event and welcomed the audience who attended day two programme. Mrs Gertrude Maluleke, a Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education proposed a vote of thanks. Programme facilitators were Mrs Doris Mutobvu and Ms Tshimangadzo Tambani.
Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication
University of Venda
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Date: 31 August 2021