Parktown Girls High School head girl Neha Prag stole the show with her speech which received two rounds of applause at Wits’ Student Representative Council’s (SRC’s) women’s luncheon on Saturday, August 26.
Prag encouraged sisterhood and explained that young people’s quest for transformation should not always be viewed in a negative way.
Her speech set the tone for a panel discussion that included singer and former Witsie, Simphiwe Dana, actress and former Wits lecturer Kgomotso Christopher, leadership and organisational development consultant Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye and director of the Wits Transformation Office, Lindiwe Manyika.
Prag also said that the interest of the youth lies in transformation and questioning the system. “Just because the youth are interrogating the system, does not mean that youth and the system cannot coexist. And just because the methods of interrogation differ, does not mean that neither party does not want a better society,” she said.
She further added that the gradient of “wokeness”- which refers to being aware of oppression in society and challenging the status quo – should be less commodified and less exclusive. “We should be calling people into these conversations instead of calling them out.”
Panellist Mthimunye emphasized this point during the discussion. She said that it is important to invite men and boys into the conversation because, though it alerts them to their wrongdoing, calling them out is not a solution.
Christopher said it is good to have such dialogues but, “There needs to be a point where we move beyond talking. It’s time that conversations become actions in domestic spaces, at work and even in the jokes that we laugh at.”
Prag used two Indian feminist movements to show that women can lead in different ways: one gentle and lady-like as depicted in the movie Lipstick or aggressive and confrontational like the Gulabi Gang. (See video)
Prag said that women can lead as they please, whether aggressive or gentle. Dana agreed, saying that while women are fighting patriarchy, they need to invest in self-care as well. “Be strict about the ideas that you allow to populate your space, practise self-care, know that you are enough, your dreams are valid and don’t become confrontational. It’s okay to pursue your dreams quietly,” she said.
Prag encouraged women to build and maintain a sisterhood that is courageous and stands up for one another regardless of what leadership style they choose to condemn patriarchy with.
— WITS SRC (@WitsSRC) August 26, 2017
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