As part of Women’s Month celebrations in August, a colloquium on ‘Womanhood from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds’ was hosted by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (DST-NRF IKS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Director of the DST-NRF IKS Centre, Professor Hassan Kaya, indicated that the colloquium was hosted in order to interrogate diverse cultures and religious backgrounds, to address ‘social problems in eThekwini such as HIV and AIDS, teenage pregnancy, sexual violence, drug abuse, access to education and employment.’
Kaya said that women from diverse cultures and religious backgrounds have attempted through family and other social roles to impart norms and values within and across generations to enrich the livelihood of those around them. ‘In spite of these efforts the modern pressures of globalisation through mass media and peer pressure have brought new and complex challenges to womanhood, especially among the young generations,’ said Kaya.
The colloquium, which was attended by pupils from Apollo Secondary School in Chatsworth, featured presentations demonstrating Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Zulu rites of passage.
Mrs Kantharuby Munsamy, a renowned Indian classical dancer, looked at the roles women have played from ancient Vedic times to the present. Munsamy said women are the ‘builders of the nation’ as they ‘make noble citizens’ by rearing their children.
Ms Shafeeah Manga explained Muslim ceremonies and rites of passage and explained various Islamic practices, including the relevance of women dressing modestly.
Mrs Sindiswe Mzila revealed that in Zulu culture, a woman represents her family, ‘wherever she goes’. Mzila emphasised the importance of tradition and the importance of ‘building a home based on Zulu cultural values’. She explained various ceremonies, ranging from puberty to lobola negotiations, as part of the rites of passage.
Dr Mayashree Chinsamy, from the IKS Centre, stated that the colloquium sought to ‘develop multicultural targeted programmes to address social ills very close to home, such as HIV and AIDS, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, access to education. In addition, the forum aims to promote social cohesion through culturally relevant mechanisms while building capacity among all generations of women.’
She said: I maintain that all that I am, have and hope to be, I owe to my Amma,’ (Hindu term for mother).
Kaya said the interaction at the colloquium revealed that ‘we live together in SA but we don’t know one another.’ He said ‘we have more similarities than differences’ and that ‘diversity is part of cultural enrichment.’
IKS plans to host events in the future, geared towards unifying and enriching cultures and hence promoting social cohesion. In closing, Dr Ngcobo from the Moses Kotane Institute thanked all the participants, as well as Dr Chinsamy and Ms Zodwa Masinga as organisers of the colloquium. Special thanks was extended to Ms Masinga who translated the presentations from English to isiZulu and vice-versa.