FOR THE first time in its 15-year-old-history of competing, there are now eight women in the Wits Debating Union (WDU), or the Lions, as they are called.
The women debaters feel they can celebrate Women’s Day with tangible progress, having broken the traditional patriarchal past. However, another transition towards diversity is the fact that the union was once white dominated but is now fully multi-racial.
Chairperson Noluthando Yeni who feels debating has grown her confidence, quipped: “Men are looking for strong, intelligent women.”
BA student, Catherine Seabe, exclaims: “I feel like I can take over the world!”
All five girls joined their high school debating teams and decided to continue until university level. Angelinah Mofokeng, a first year BA Dramatic Arts student, said: “it was fun to come to Wits and find something other than the Arts to focus on”.
“Debating is a team sport. We don’t do it for individual achievement. We celebrate wins and losses as a team,” explained BSc student Jabulile Mabuza.
Yeni told Wits Vuvuzela that they don’t have any gender issues within the team because they train together and focus on “getting into the spirit” of debating as a “united front”.
“We definitely have a strong sense of pride being the only female members in the team but at the same time we have broken the gender barrier. We blend together like a family, nobody thinks they are better than the other.”
When it comes to relationships within the team, they stressed that the 22 male members are like brothers so they don’t see any “romantics” forming.
Some did say that they “enjoy flirting” with debating members from other universities at inter-university competitions.
Individual backgrounds and famous female figures have influenced some team members to be proud of their femininity and to create equality between genders.
IreneMpofu, a BComm LLB student was deeply influenced by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who she viewed as “not defined by her gender but rather by her hard work in society”. Mabuza’s own background has inspired her both as a person and in her passion for debating.
“I’ve grown up in the rural areas and seen the wrongs within society, especially the disadvantages women have experienced. This has inspired me to change things. I believe in leaders without titles.”
Talking briefly about the WDU win at the South African Universities Debating Championship, all said they were proud to have seen three female debaters, including WDU’s Athi-Nangamso Nkopo make it to the finals.
It was the first time a win with women in the final had taken place. Yeni said they hope to encourage more young women Witsies to join the WDU through an all-women’s debating tournament happening later this year.
“We want women to be conscious about breaking the stereotypes and gender barriers. It’s all about making us females believe in each other,” she said.