Dear colleagues and students
On 9 August every year, we come together to celebrate all womxn. We cherish and recognise on this day and throughout the month womxn of different backgrounds, sectors, experiences and so on. There is a common thread amongst all these individuals – the resilience and perseverance of a womxn.
In 1956, a group of diverse womxn stood together to protest against the imposition of pass laws on black South African women and to present a petition to the then Prime Minister JG Strijdom. Each year on this day, we continue to honour them and the new generation of womxn for blazing a trail for the future.
After two years of virtual events, we were as part of our Women’s Month celebrations once again able to honour the award recipients of the University of Cape Town (UCT) For Womxn By Womxn research grants and womxn from across the university at the annual Women’s Day luncheon held on 10 August 2022.
When I launched the For Womxn By Womxn research grants to build scholarship in areas of study where womxn are under-represented and in areas of study that are of relevance to womxn, I particularly wanted to focus on advancing capacity among black South African womxn and transgender researchers.
At the luncheon, recipients of the For Womxn By Womxn research grants – Professor Janet Hapgood, Dr Katye Altieri and Dr Robin Pickering – also updated those in attendance on their interesting research projects on contraception and HIV risk of women in sub-Saharan Africa, building capacity in the field of oceanography, and transforming the field of paleoanthropology respectively.
Unfortunately, no grant has been awarded in the third category, “Re-imagining gender”, to support research on transgender or non-conforming gender issues. This remains a globally under-researched area, and we need to improve our understanding of the transgender experience so we can improve the lives of these individuals, particularly gender non-conforming youth in Africa.
The experience in Africa will be different from those in the global north, and we need to be able to understand and respond to that experience. At UCT we need to bridge the gap in this research and as we begin to do this, I invited Liberty Matthyse, the executive director of Gender DynamiX, to deliver a keynote address at the luncheon this year. By using a human rights framework, Gender DynamiX undertakes to advance, promote and defend the rights of trans- and gender nonconforming persons in South Africa, Africa and globally.
To my fellow womxn, this Women’s Month let us emulate the solidarity shown by the 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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