Imbokodo Initiative Launched at UKZNAgriculture, Engineering & Science

From left: Dr Gugu Mazibuko, Dr Beverly Damonse, Ms Phuti Mahanyele, Professor Cristina Trois, Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu and Ms Avril Williamson.From left: Dr Gugu Mazibuko, Dr Beverly Damonse, Ms Phuti Mahanyele, Professor Cristina Trois, Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu and Ms Avril Williamson.

UKZN strengthened its commitment to women’s empowerment and advancement with the launch of the Imbokodo initiative which aims to create opportunities for women at the University.

The name Imbokodo, “rock” in isiZulu, was inspired by the 1956 protest march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria by more than 20 000 women singing freedom songs.  The call was: Wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo,uza kufa! (When you strike the women, you strike a rock, you will be crushed!).

UKZN’s Executive Director of Human Resources, Ms Avril Williamson, said she was confident the Imbokodo initiative would achieve its goals. ‘This will be a space where women can connect, dialogue, network and inspire each other’.

The keynote speaker at the launch was Ms Phuti Mahanyele, the Executive Chairman of Sigma Capital and former CEO of Shanduka Group, a multi-billion-rand investment holding company.

Mahanyele explored the challenges facing women in leadership and offered coping strategies. Her inspiring address was peppered with sound business and personal advice including: ‘We need to be able to push forward – with or without’ and ‘aim for the extraordinary … despite the circumstances’.

She emphasised the importance of education as being central to the empowerment of young women, saying: ‘Tomorrow’s leaders are in pre-school today.’

She encouraged those present to take charge of their destinies - ‘each and every one of us is the CEO of Me Incorporated … your life is your business!’

Group Executive for Science Engagement and Corporate Relations at the National Research Foundation, Dr Beverly Damonse, echoed Mahanyele’s thoughts on the importance of education. ‘Higher Education is a powerful engine for transformation,’ said Damonse.

However, she emphasised that conversations on women’s advancement should include men.

She shared her experiences about some of the barriers caused by unconscious bias and patriarchal tendencies, saying there was no ‘quick fix’ to boost senior female representation in an organisation. ‘Employers need to take a holistic approach to building a strong and sustainable female talent pipeline.’

Dean of UKZN’s School of Engineering, Professor Cristina Trois, cautioned against ‘people who steal your ideas’, while encouraging those present to work with people ‘who advance you’.

She emphasised the importance of a strong support base and having a vision and a sense of direction in order to survive.

Second-year UKZN Medical student, Mr Siyabonga Sibusiso Shongwe, recited a poem he had written,  Asante Sana Mama, which means ‘Thank you, mama’ in Swahili.

The launch was hosted by the Human Resources Division, with support from Corporate Relations.

Dr Gugu Mazibuko of the School of Arts facilitated the panel discussion while the Director of Human Resources Development, Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu, was the Director of Proceedings.

Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer