A group of women academics, together with two male counterparts sat down to talk gender enequality at the Wits Chalsty Centre ahead of National Women’s Day today.
Wits politics lecturer Prof Shireen Hassim directed the discussions on Friday, noting her frustrations with Women’s Day.
No to Womens Day?
“I have antipathy for days like Women’s Day – because on 365 days of the year I work with women’s issues”, said Hassim noting the inequalities women face on a day-to-day basis as uncelebratory.
Gender inequality dominated the discussion when CALS (Centre for Applied Legal Studies) associate Charmika Samaradiwakara-Wijesundara said: “I find myself as a raging academic in a country that is so deeply unequal”.
Mashile Phalane, community liaison officer at CALS, and one of only two men in the room, said that there has been no official recognition of the role gender and culture in society.
“Our culture never knew how to deal with the ‘woman’ issue”, said Phalane who suggested that the confusion between these issues has contributed to the promotion of patriarchy.
Hassim responded saying that “the pulpits of our culture have put on a certain kind of interpretation – culture has been used to destabilise movements that will help stop the progression of women”.
Hassim added that there has been little done to promote gender issues at a political level. “Politics refers to the space in which we find the political voice”, suggesting that the structures of power have displaced issues of gender.