Women’s Month is being commemorated in South Africa in August as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

The historic march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large. Since that eventful day, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the fight for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

To honour UKZN women, this special Women’s Month edition of UKZNOnline recognises the phenomenal contributions made by different individuals at the University in the fields of research, teaching and learning and community engagement.

"Wathinta abafazi wathinta imbokodo" (You strike a woman, you strike a rock!!!)

-Sithembile Shabangu

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Dr Nafiisa Sobratee, a Post-doctoral Fellow in UKZN’s Discipline of Bioresources Engineering, recently took top honours in the 3rd Africa-wide Women and Young Professionals in Science competition held in Ghana.

The competition is organised by the Centre for Technical and Rural Agriculture (Netherlands), the International Foundation for Science (Sweden), and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa and partners. The competition focused on the theme “Feeding 1 billion in Africa in a changing world”.

Sobratee’s winning paper is entitled Valorisation of Poultry Litter to Compost: An Assessment of the Pathogen Reduction Potential’. The paper forms part of the research Sobratee engaged in during her doctoral studies which she completed at the University of Mauritius in 2011.

The abstracts of 45 researchers were initially chosen for the competition and the numbers were then subsequently cut down until 20 semi-finalists were selected.

The competition also involved a scientific writing, communication and policy advocacy workshop for semi-finalists, which was held in conjunction with the 3rd RUFORUM biennial conference – titled Partnerships and Networking for Strengthening Agricultural Innovation – in September last year in Uganda.

During the final stage of the competition each finalist made a 15 minute presentation of their research and outreach work to a panel of high-level judges drawn from multi-disciplinary fields of science in Africa. The judges were backed by an expert panel of advisors.

For Sobratee, her travels through Africa allowed her the unique opportunity to engage with Africans outside of her native Mauritius. ‘It was deeply enriching to have the opportunity to understand Africa, to see the people, understand their problems and see their day-to-day living,’ said Sobratee.

On the heels of the win, Sobratee acknowledges that her work has truly just begun as the challenge to feed Africa is a pivotal concern of hers. She highlighted the need to bring scientific research to the people of Africa in order to “improve their livelihoods and as Africans feed Africa”.

‘One of the key lessons that I learnt from the competition is the importance of collective action to address Africa’s pressing needs in terms of development – as early-career African scientists we share this as a common goal,’ said Sobratee.

Sobratee attributes her success at the competition as stemming from the support she received from colleagues at UKZN and the University of Mauritius, as well as friends and family.

Her current research activities focus on the detection of post-harvest deterioration in sugarcane.

-Barrington Marais

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Animal Scientist in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, Dr Marion Young, finished ninth in this year’s Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon - now she has been selected to take part in the 2013 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, later this year.

Following her Dusi achievement, Young competed in the Non-Stop Dusi two weeks later – a race which sees competitors complete the 120km Dusi in a day!

The Dusi and Non-Stop Dusi signalled the end of the “river marathon” season and the start of the “flat water marathon” season for Young. 

Preparation for the ICF World Championship is a complicated and involved process. ‘The Dusi was a super platform for base fitness but thereafter we trained specifically for the flat water KwaZulu-Natal Marathon Championships in May and from there one could progress to the South African flat water marathon Championships in June. Both of these competitions were held on Shongweni Dam,’ said Young.

Explaining the selection process for the ICF World Championship, Young said: ‘I won at the KwaZulu-Natal and South African Champs in the sub-veteran category in the K1 (singles) and in the K2 (doubles) categories with my partner, Angela Scruby. My race times qualified me for selection for the World Championships in Copenhagen.’

For Young training is exciting, because of the nature of the discipline. The endurance type training (about two hours on the dam) is interspersed with interval training, from short sprints to the longer speed-endurance intervals of up to 10 minutes in length in each interval.

‘I am extremely grateful to UKZN for support towards my kit and boat transfer to Copenhagen,’ said Young.

While the main goal in Copenhagen will be to win medals, what she is ultimately hoping to do is to encourage more people to participate in the flat water marathon discipline.  She says age is irrelevant with determination, discipline and enthusiasm being key elements.

* Updates on Young’ progress are on Twitter @marionbyoung.  Her blog is: or email her at

-Barrington Marais

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As the first woman to be appointed as the Municipal Manager of the Sisonke District Municipality which is based at Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Nandi Dlamini is dedicated to becoming the key driver for service delivery within her community.

Although Dlamini, who is currently studying towards a Master of Commerce in Local Economic Development at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L), has great vision about transforming the District, she is also realistic about the challenges that lie ahead.

‘In my opinion, local government is an area of convergence. It is where everything that has to do with society and people begins and ultimately ends when dealing with issues of service delivery. As a young leader, I am not only honoured, but privileged for having such a challenging opportunity,’ said Dlamini.

She might be new to the Municipal Manager position but Dlamini has vast experience within the municipality having worked there as a Planning and Implementing Support System Manager (PIMMS) since 2002.

Valuing the practical experience as much as her education, Dlamini holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science degree, a Masters in Town and Regional Planning degree, and is currently studying towards a Master of Commerce in Local Economic Development degree at the GSB&L.

Through this qualification, she aims to gain knowledge of various aspects of Local Government which will empower her as a leader who encourages responsible community engagement.

‘A true leader cannot be a fanatic but must be the best servant to her cause and to the people she serves.

‘The course work I have completed has assisted me in acquiring a better understanding of the systematic approach in dealing with economic development within Local Government and has enhanced my career in providing guidance to always aim at maintaining team spirit and excellence in human relationships.

‘My future ambitions are to be fully engaged in an in-depth manner in matters relating to research in local government improvement initiatives that will enhance local government as a whole and also to be a true leader in terms of my style,’ said Dlamini.

Youth, ambition, and determination are great leadership qualities - Dlamini has them all.

-Thandiwe Jumo

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Women and girl power are not just words for Ms Samantha Willan, they are a catalyst for changing the realities of poverty, inequality and injustice women face daily.

Through her position as Programme Manager of HEARD's Gender Equality and HIV Prevention Programme, and an independent consultant on sexuality, gender equality and HIV/AIDS, her passion for creating a dialogue in communities to enhance awareness around these issues is her contribution towards inspiring change.

As an academic, Willan focuses on gender equality, sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Her responsibility as a community member motivated her to establish the Child Friendly City Campaign which encourages the community of Glenwood to return to public spaces. As a woman she is a wife and a great mother to her son Zakes (5) and daughter Rosa (6). 

While this delicate juggling act might seem impossible for some, it is all in a day’s work for Willan who believes that it is important to be an active community member and leader.

‘Most of my work involves building women and girls power and resilience so they can become economically and emotionally independent,’ said Willan.  ‘My aim is also to create spaces for women and girls to explore their situations and identify strategies to improve their lives. Much of my work is in communities with women and girls. I believe that change starts on the ground and by facilitating conversations and dialogues and holding participatory workshops we create spaces for change to happen in communities.’

Her work at UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) brings her face to face with gender stereotypes and the risk and impact of the HIV epidemic on women’s and girls’ lives. She is currently involved in various projects that aim to combat these social ills, including an inception phase project looking at a "parenting intervention".

‘This project aims to reduce HIV risk, especially for women and girls, through supporting parents with young babies to improve their parenting skills. The project includes topics such as: encouraging attachment to the primary caregiver, and reducing gender inequality through challenging harmful gender stereotypes,’ said Willan.

‘This project is particularly exciting for me as it is an innovative way to build new relationships between children and their parents. We believe this will carry through into improved relationships later in life and reduce girls’ risks of experiencing gender-based violence, and boys likelihood of perpetrating violence. And of course this work talks to me as a mother of young children.’

Another exciting project Willan is involved in is a 12-week training programme which works to reduce women’s experiences of gender-based violence (whether it be sexual, physical, emotional or financial) and men’s perpetration of such violence. This is done through a participatory project called Stepping Stones and Creating Futures, where participants develop heightened awareness of, and skills around, improving gender equality and securing their livelihoods.

To keep her sanity in the daily busyness of life she enjoys yoga, photography, the sunshine, beaches and parks, often accompanied by her energetic youngsters.

Although, Willan keeps her personal life and work separate she does incorporate the lessons she learns at work into the values she teaches her children.

‘We try to raise our children in keeping with our values around gender equality, social justice, non-racism and non-homophobia – and it is so rewarding to see our children practicing these values when playing imaginary games or chatting to their friends.

‘Keeping “a healthy balance between work and life” is a daily challenge however, and I think part of the way to do it is to ensure there’s time “just for me” – which not always easy to achieve - and also to integrate life and work wherever possible,’ said Willan.

We can all make a difference in our own small way – both in how we live our lives and how we engage in our communities. These are goals Samantha Willan turns into action to inspire us all.

-Thandiwe Jumo

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Health Communication Programme Manager and Lecturer at UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), Mrs Eliza Govender,  is passionate about HIV prevention and is set on making a difference in society through effective HIV communication.

This unwavering passion has led to her featuring in the 2013 Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans supplement which showcases young stars who are shaping the country’s future.

Asked about her learning experiences in HIV communication, she said: ‘I think the most important lesson I have learnt is that no two interventions or communication strategies can ever be the same. People are different; they respond and live in varying contexts with multiple social, economic and political factors that affect their choices. Working with HIV communication from a context specific approach ensures that we address HIV from a needs-based perspective rather than a generic communicative response.’

Govender also points out that women have a pivotal role to play in the education and community development sector of our country.  ‘They can often explore and unpack complex issues of communication, HIV prevention and community development, particularly in cases of social exclusion and gender inequalities. Their role in society is central to any transformation.’

She advised young women to take an introspective approach and unpack their dreams and goals. ‘I believe we all have a footprint to leave no matter how big or small it may be. Every step counts and every step gets you closer to where you need to be,’ she said.

Talking about her career highlights in HIV communication research, Govender said: ‘I think it’s the ability to extend the research that we do at university to proper community engagement initiatives. The work we do at the University does not only have to remain as something that only academics engage in, but the research translating into viable community projects, community engagement and upliftment is what is giving the most meaning to my work.

‘In addition, having the ability to work with HIV issues on a theoretical level, and then also being able to sit with an HIV positive child and nurture their educational process of understanding about what is going on in their bodies is very humbling.’

Govender plans to continue making contributions to the field of HIV communication. ‘I also really have a heart for community engagement, upliftment and projects which promote poverty alleviation. So setting up a long-term sustainable community project is definitely on my agenda.’

She gained insight into some of these dire community needs after working for five years with the Centre for HIV/AIDS Networking (HIVAN) in research, project development and facilitation. Govender has developed, co-ordinated and implemented community programmes with a particular focus on developing communication strategies which are entertaining and educating.

She has extensive knowledge of participatory processes of communication and development which is instrumental in magnifying the role of communities and young people in prevention, treatment, and care and support for communities infected and affected by HIV. She creates ongoing vehicles of sustainability through children and academic publications which document the developmental workshops and training programmes.   Her research interests include community development and participatory action research with further interests in entertainment education for health promotion.

She was also awarded the SANPAD Methodology Scholarship and completed seven weeks of intensive social science methodology training.

 Govender’s PhD thesis, which she has submitted for examination, explores the various communication strategies used in South Africa for HIV prevention, care and support towards developing a participatory model for designing communication interventions which is context and cultural specific. Govender also has extensive consultancy experience in the fields of facilitation, training, baseline studies, research projects and monitoring and evaluation for organisations such as  the Turn Table Trust; CAPRISA; Dance4Life; You, Me and HIV; CADRE, and MSF among others. 

-Melissa Mungroo

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A long-standing community engagement project on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus serves rural women by providing accessible reading material in the form of a free educational newspaper supplement.

Over the 23 years of its existence, almost all the contributing staff members who produced Learn with Echo have been women and currently three women UKZN staff members are responsible for its continuation.

Adult Education Lecturer Ms Sandra Land, a literacy and languages specialist, has been involved from the beginning in various capacities, most recently as Project Co-ordinator.

Lecturer Ms Kathy Arbuckle trained in Fine Arts and teaching, and her early work of doing illustrations for Learn with Echo led her into the study and practice of all aspects of producing adult education media, including writing, editing and design.

Ms Taadi Modipa joined the project after studying adult education at UKZN, and brings a gift for writing and translation, as well as her experience of community development and environmental activism. Besides writing, Modipa is also involved in the design and layout of Learn with Echo.

All three women have included Learn with Echo in their research and teaching activities in various ways, and continue to do so. There have been valuable lessons learned over the past decades with others working in the literacy and adult education fields, as well as assisting with evaluating the project. In addition, the project is becoming an increasingly fertile ground for students’ postgraduate research activities, and serves UKZN’s goal to become a research-led institution.

Most recently, Land’s PhD investigates the differences between reading isiZulu and English, and what the implications are for language teaching. Arbuckle’s research explores visual literacy, and the communicative potential and limitations of illustrated educational texts for readers with low-literacy.

Modipa is investigating the use of two languages in bilingual educational texts, and is passionate about the rights of persons with disabilities. Part of her work involves facilitating focus groups with Learn with Echo readers, to gather information on how the supplement is used and how it can be improved. This adds to information gained from several readership surveys conducted over the years.

‘It seems miraculous that, after 23 years, the Learn with Echo continues to be published every week, having outlived similar publications from the adult literacy "heydays" in the early 1990s,’ said Arbuckle. ‘This project’s success is due not only to many years of dedication from UKZN staff in the Centre for Adult Education, but is also thanks to the on-going partnership with The Witness newspaper (which started the Echo community newspaper), and many different funding  partners.’

This project is set to continue addressing the gap in educational resources for educationally disadvantaged adult learners and rural women in particular. 

Arbuckle pointed out that the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa states clearly that everyone has the right to ‘a basic education, including adult basic education’.

‘Yet adult basic education remains the “Cinderella” of the education system, and visits to adult basic education classes reveal a severe shortage of appropriate reading and learning materials for this level, which hampers learners’ progress.

‘This affects women in particular, who make up the majority of learners in the few adult classes which function in rural areas. The availability of a wide range of reading matter at accessible language levels is vital to support reading development among new readers of any age.’

The Learn with Echo project started in 1990, as an initiative of the University’s Centre for Adult Education. It began with the aim of freely providing enjoyable and easy to read educational materials to adult learners in disadvantaged communities. The articles are in easy to read English and isiZulu, and include a popular bilingual picture story.

Every week 73 000 copies of the four-page Learn with Echo educational newspaper supplement are distributed with the free Echo community newspaper in Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas.

Learn with Echo reaches audiences further afield through a subscription service which is currently free to non-profit organisations, adult literacy groups, and government schools. These copies of the supplement mainly go to individuals and schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal, although there are subscribers in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces.

The content of Learn with Echo is varied, covering topics including current affairs, financial literacy, health, numeracy, life skills, early childhood development, and most importantly, entertainment.

There is also a strong focus on serious gender issues, and the social problems affecting women and children. Learn with Echo regularly features articles on domestic violence, dealing with rape (including where and how to report rape, medical treatment, and where to get counselling and emotional support), accessing grants, and using the law to get maintenance from fathers.

In 2012 a series of articles written in both English and isiZulu provided detailed information on the laws governing the employment of domestic workers.

Male readers are not excluded, however, and are considered an equally important audience. Articles take the approach of presenting different perspectives, and then ask readers to reflect and make up their own minds. Positive role models and support groups for men are promoted, along with information on communication skills and non-violent problem solving.

Articles on early childhood development, parenting and life skills cater for both men and women. Many Learn with Echo articles are developed in consultation with local organisations including Lifeline/Rape Crisis, Justice and Women (JAW), FAMSA, the Department of Justice, PACSA and the uMphithi Men’s Network.

The uMgungundlovu District Municipality has shown confidence in the project, by commissioning articles in the supplement as a means to educate residents in the district about municipal issues. The project is well-positioned to respond to requests for articles on current issues that those working in organisations "at the coalface" discover to be problems that need public attention and education. 

Learn with Echo articles also celebrate success stories. For example, the Family Literacy Project (FLP) in rural KwaZulu-Natal has shown that women with little or no formal education can use literacy in their homes and in groups with myriad benefits for their families and their communities, and we share such stories.

Learn with Echo is also used as learning material at FLP centres and by many other similar groups. Other success stories covered include articles on savings groups which are improving the lives of thousands of rural women, facilitated by Pietermaritzburg-based organisations such as SaveAct and Zimele.

Learn with Echo has also published financial literacy articles for rural women, in support of the on-going Financial Literacy campaign run by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury. More articles on financial issues aimed at woman and vulnerable groups are in the pipeline.

Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health (CRH) has received more than R1 million in funding to pilot a project aimed at reducing mother and child mortality though service integration in primary healthcare  in KwaZulu-Natal.

Deputy Director of CRH, Dr Christiane Horwood, who will direct the Centre’s Reducing Mother and Child Mortality (RMCH) project, said a lot could be done to improve on the services clinics offer mothers and babies residing in rural communities, especially in the plight of HIV. 

In 2012, CRH launched its Integrated Service for Impact and Sustainability Project which reviewed the degree of integration of maternal, child, women's health (MCWH) and HIV services provided in clinics. It also looked at the roles, training and self-efficacy of health workers as well as the experiences of mothers attending the well-baby clinic.

The study found that mother-baby pairs attended the clinics timeously for immunisation but they often did not receive a comprehensive range of services during the visit.  Several possible reasons for this were identified including a lack of role clarification in terms of who should be responsible for providing key services to mothers and their babies, and a lack of co-ordination of services leading to missed opportunities for care and fragmentation of services and equipment. 

With the new funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Horwood and her team will work with two clinics of the uThukela District to provide an "integrated" service for mothers and children over a one-year period. It is envisaged that a clear framework for providing services for mothers and children will emanate from this project and could be rolled out for the entire province if successful.

Horwood said it was alarming that mothers and babies could leave a clinic without having received comprehensive services to improve their health.

‘Mothers are coming in, having their babies immunised, without having the necessary services. Our baseline study found that a mother has to sit in three or four queues before she receives all the necessary services.’

Horwood said children’s Road to Health cards were important for every child at every visit to ensure that the child was growing well. She said holistic care for the mother and child would include services such as family planning, pap smears, deworming, HIV testing and nutrition advice. ‘Malnutrition is still very prevalent in South Africa!’

The new project is supported by the Department of Health and was welcomed by the uThukela District Manager, Mrs Thandeka Zulu.

CRH will focus on mentoring the clinic teams of uThukela on an alternate weekly basis; working closely with clinic managers on improving their leadership roles. ‘Change is stressful and difficult. That is why we are giving ourselves a whole year to see whether we can give mothers a streamlined and integrated service.’

Horwood said comprehensive coverage should save the lives of mothers and children. ‘The DoH provides most of the services needed but the problem is that these services are not accessible.

‘If you can prevent the loss of a single life then I believe you would have done a good thing.’

-Lunga Memela

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Women of the 21st century increasingly face a different set of challenges including being discriminated against in the workplace.

The problem manifests itself not only in accessing career opportunities but also when ascending the career ladder and is not confined to academia rather spanning other predominantly male-dominated career paths in the workplace.

Against this background and in the spirit of August as Women’s Month, the College of Health Sciences committee of Women in Leadership and Leverage (WILL) dedicated a workshop to highlight the challenges and identify solutions to the discrimination of professional women.

Keynote speaker at the workshop Professor Margaret Nair - a psychiatrist and Honorary Lecturer at UKZN’s Medical School - said a sound education and a supportive home and work environment were key to success in employment and career opportunities.

According to Nair, Career women have the added burden of being providers and nurturers in the home environment, which is often a difficult balancing act.

‘Since the advancement of civilisation women have been tied to the home and seen as homemakers. Women’s lives were controlled by their reproductive function.’

Nair said times had changed. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle of yesteryear was no longer conducive for contemporary career women who sometimes needed to put food on the table for their families.

Because of deeply rooted stereotypes, attitudes and role strains, career advancement for women today was still a major challenge and there was a need for an all-embracing support system in the home and especially the work environment.

‘The number of women who are married as housewives in ante nuptial agreements is shocking,’ said Nair. ‘Wives are generally expected to make the greater sacrifices and adjustments.’

In what she termed: The Cycle of Disempowerment, Nair said: ‘The lack of adequate education leads to unemployment and women being forced to stay at home; being disempowered and being financially dependent on their (sometimes abusive) husbands and family members. This leads to helplessness, depression, hopelessness, suicide and other “avoidable” circumstances.’

Her argument was strongly supported by statistics revealing a "poor number" of executive corporate positions held by women in the workplace.

‘Discrimination against professional women is prevalent and the data on South Africa is not good.

‘Because of machoism, women often fail to stand up for themselves. They can’t say no. They constantly need approval from their male counterparts and are afraid of offending others. They accept this role and adopt a “suffering” lifestyle.’

Nair suggested 10 powerful career strategies for women:

·         Get as much Higher Education and training as you can

·         Search the internet to keep in touch with cutting edge information

·         Have leverage and focus on your communication and interpersonal skills

·         Plan your career

·         Network!

·         Find a mentor

·         Cultivate and project confidence

·         Self-promote

·         Incubate your talents

·         Become a free agent

‘Women must learn to be competent in dealing with criticism, recognitions of “put downs”, not putting themselves down, dealing appropriately with power issues, leaving personal matters at home and networking with other women.

‘The superwoman myth of dealing with quadruple roles results in stress, resentment and burnout,’ said Nair.

‘Women need to realise they have unique skills and a feminine ethos which they can introduce to the workplace:  these include nurturance, mentoring, compassion, empathy and intuition.’

Nair shared techniques for developing resilience and spoke about the importance of "believing in yourself" as well as living a balanced lifestyle which included having a bit of "me-time" for a set period daily.

* During her tenure at the Medical School, Nair was appointed a Full-Professor in the Discipline of Psychiatry and distinguished herself as the first woman of colour to qualify as a Psychiatrist as well as the first woman President of the South African College of Psychiatrists, a position she held for many years.

-Lunga Memela

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The time consuming task of marking scripts might be a thing of the past for staff members if the pilot testing phase of the implementation of Riddel - an electronic assessment system - by the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academics Ms Upasana Singh and Dr Ziska Fields is a success.

The academics are testing the system during August and September to ascertain its feasibility and benefits for adoption at the University.

Riddel, was developed by a University of Limpopo Senior Lecturer of Histology in the Department of Anatomy, Dr Pieter Ackermann, five years ago. It is a computer testing system with a facility for reading speed tests and language and grammar testing.

The motivating factor for the adoption of the system is that it would reduce the marking burden of lecturers allowing them more time for research which is the University’s priority. The system does all marking automatically, offering extensive statistical reporting facilities and special features that allow questions to be re-marked or excluded while automatically updating student marks.

‘We were impressed by the innovative ideas and the problems Riddel could potentially solve,’ said Fields. ‘We will need to get students and the academics used to the system so we will test it on first year, third year and postgraduate students because it must be beneficial for everyone.’

Under the guidance of Ackermann who recently gave a lecture at the School, Singh has already created a successful dummy-testing structure. However, the key elements to consider when it comes to any electronic system are safety and cost.

Singh explains that since the system runs on a local network they are confident the data will be secure.

‘Because the questions and answers are not saved on the server and you only load the questions 30 minutes before the test we are confident about the security factor. The licensing fee for the system is R50 000 a year which is cost effective when you consider that using the system will eliminate the problems of missing scripts and students saying they submitted their papers when they did not,’ said Singh.

The most important aspect of this system is that it runs on a local network, making it much faster than many of the proprietary systems.’

-Thandiwe Jumo

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Protecting women and children from abuse, exploitation and other social ills is every South African citizen’s responsibility – and for UKZN Law academic Ms Ann Strode the first step towards addressing these issues is through education.

Strode uses her legal talent to service the community by providing legal research expertise to non-government organisations and giving ethical-legal advice to researchers.

Apart from being the Chair of the Board of an Oxfam programme and a volunteer in a small NGO Siyafuna, which advocates the development of female controlled HIV prevention methods, Strode was recently requested by the Social Development Portfolio Committee at the KwaZulu-Natal legislature to run a workshop on children’s rights with a special focus on the sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents.

The Portfolio Committee has identified children as a key issue that they will focus on this year hence they needed to be updated on new developments on cases involving children. The workshop resulted in a strategic partnership as the Committee requested that they partner with them on a small study on how social workers deal with issues of under-age sex following the Teddy Bear case.   

‘At a personal level this has been an interesting area in which the law is currently very dynamic,’ said Strode.’ I have found it very challenging to have to face up to the complexities of applying a law criminalising consensual under-age sex in a society in which inter-generational sex is the norm.

‘Often researchers undertaking sexual and reproductive health research with teenagers would become aware that they were sexually active under the age of 16. The Sexual Offences Act required that any person with “knowledge” of a sexual offence against a child had to report this to the police,’ said Strode. She added that due to the complexities of legalities surrounding this issue she has had to advise many health researchers on how to approach the subject

‘This provision put researchers in a dilemma as they could on the one hand provide children with confidential sexual and reproductive health services thus complying with the Children’s Act but ignore the Sexual Offences Act or they could on the other hand comply with the criminal law and breach the doctor-patient or researcher-participant relationship and report such behaviour to the police thus undermining a child’s sexual and reproductive rights.’

When she is not serving the community, Strode is hard at work on her dissertation for her thesis titled: "Walking the Tightrope – Creating an Ethical-Legal Framework for Health Research with Children: Balancing Child Protection and Participation with the Facilitation of Appropriate Health Research".


The thesis aims to contribute to the current discourse on the development of an ethical-legal framework for regulating health research. It uses the analogy of walking on a tightrope to describe the complexity of the regulation of child research.


Its findings reveal that there is an inherent tension between facilitating health research with child participants and the need to both protect children and enable their active engagement in research decision-making. Furthermore, if a delicate balance is not struck between these three principles the tightrope walker will fall, resulting in either limited health research for children or inadequate protection and involvement of children in decision-making.


‘I decided on this topic as I have been collaborating with the HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group (HAVEG) for many years and I realised that it would be difficult to run HIV vaccine trials with children in South Africa because of our ethical-legal framework. This sparked my interest in undertaking a more in-depth study on what should be the principles that ought to be used to underpin the regulation of research with children,’ said Strode.


-Thandiwe Jumo

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Facebook is a place where you meet people, tag friends and family members on your pictures, upload status about your life - and you can also get served!

South Africa has a huge Facebook population but a lot of members of this online community do not know the legalities of the social network and internet law.

This is the specialist area of Law academic Ms Priya Singh of the Pietermaritzburg campus. Singh recently authored an article titled: Welcome to Facebook Pieter Odendaal: you have been served!

Published in The Journal of South African LawTSAR Volume 2 2013, the article deals with the ground-breaking decision of South African courts allowing a plaintiff to serve papers on a recalcitrant debtor via his Facebook account.

Singh, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Legal Privacy Issues in an Online World, is on a mission to educate people about internet law through her research which responds to the need for people to be educated about the developments in internet law.

‘While the internet and social media sites play a huge rule in the daily lives of many South African citizens, it is an area of law which is at the moment relatively undeveloped,’ said Singh.

‘By researching and publishing in this area I hope to be proactive in helping the South African legal system develop strategies to cope with the new challenges posed to South African law by the phenomenal explosion of internet usage in South Africa.’

In her article, Singh details how in the past service of court papers was only allowed by traditional means e.g. personal service or service by the Sheriff of the Court or by registered post. The defendant in the case highlighted had evaded all the traditional means of service and as such the plaintiff could not proceed to court to obtain judgement.

The plaintiff’s lawyers, however, discovered that the defendant had an active Facebook account and petitioned the court to allow service via this social networking site.

The informative article considered worldwide judicial trends to service on Facebook and canvassed the law in the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

‘I concluded that the court’s decision in this case was a very necessary step in the development of the law taking into account the phenomenal growth of online media in a modern world. It was, however, critical of the lack of judicial resources in coming to this decision and sought to create a more solid foundation for the allowing of service via Facebook,’ said Singh.

Singh, who has also published an article on the ability to sue researchers in the Law of Delict for damages incurred in medical trials, lectures on the Law of Delict, Succession and Maritime Law.

She has co-published a book titled: Introduction to South African Law: Fresh Perspectives, which is currently in its second edition and is widely used as a textbook for first year law students.

-Thandiwe Jumo

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Social Identities and Oppression is a UKZN module designed to promote critical agency. Primarily using feminist participatory pedagogy, the purpose is to reflectively learn about the relationship between the self and the world as a dynamic dialectic in order to decide how to act in and upon the world.

The way of working and learning is based on the feminist principle that the personal is political.

This is how the module introduces students of Education and Development on the Bachelor of Social Science programme to the notion of learning as praxis – for sustainable holistic development of self and the world.

Coming from an activist background, recently reinvigorated by burgeoning feminist organisation in South Africa and England, Jane Quin, a Lecturer in Education and Development on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, puts participatory feminist pedagogies into practice.

Quin writes:

This year’s course began with a vibrant "1billionrising" event inviting the broader community to join us in learning about protesting against violence against women.

That set the tone for the way in which we worked together to try and find ways of undoing our internalised oppression received through the way the unequal and unjust world works in the main. Learning about oppression doesn’t necessarily contribute to its demise. That requires learning to be anti-oppressive. Learning to be anti-oppressive requires recognising what makes us act in the way we do; how that contributes to injustice or its opposite; and how to act accordingly for a world that works better for everybody.

This is not the normal way learning tends to happen in an academic environment. Teaching across currents like this confronts many hurdles commonly unheeded in Higher Education that tends towards a greater focus on research output than transformational teaching and practice – pushed there by neoliberal forces in our global world.

Confronting challenges of enormous classes, fixed seating venues, limited tutor development resources and properly acknowledged teaching time all contribute to making life “against the grain” of normalised “banking education” just that much more difficult. Trying to get 90 students out from between unbending rows of benches to form small groups for a “quick collective reflection”... on something like responses to negative and positive words associated with differently valued social a little like trying to quickly squash a porcupine into a lunchbox.

It is a challenge in itself simply finding the suitable spot to step up or down in response to commands like “step up if you already know someone in your chosen field of work” ... “step down if there is a chance that your studies may be interrupted by pregnancy” as we do the “Power Shuffle”.

To show relative resources and resilience connected to identities in the way the world is currently constructed requires considerable ingenuity and skilled facilitation to keep everyone physically and emotionally with one along the way. But, participation pays off. By the time we are making collective “Heart Walls” about what we fear and embrace in our ideas of emancipation, the majority of the class is automatically inclined to include and enable one another in process and content.

The major assignment is a self-reflective action research project. Students are required to plan, do and reflectively analyse an interruption of oppression. Each step must be carefully considered and rationalised using theory and practice learning from the module.

It is a hard task. Lives and feelings are intimately involved. Students are required to take on critical agency to act appropriately. That means acknowledging the relationship between social power and their personal place in the society. Then they need to write about it according to academic protocols from this perspective. Not everyone copes.

Inevitably some people think they can escape the lack of an actual action, undetected! Others think simply opinion is sufficient support of perspective; yet others fail to relinquish dominant academic discourses which totally miss the “self” as central to reflection on agency. Nonetheless, the majority manage to do a full, consciously purposeful action to interrupt oppression.

Many young women and men alike take on trying to upset traditional gendered patterns and practices in their homes. Some students, within the home or community space, took on the challenge of how to come out in respect of oppressed sexualities, while others sought to challenge destructive vertical, horizontal and/or internalised discursive practices around class and race: from being treated badly because of apparent lack of resources, to damaged self-esteem from being unable to match the socially imposed almost impossible images of valued people in the mainstream media.

Not everyone gets close to meeting their original project objectives. But the thing about experiential learning from organic action in the real world is that it has a life of its own. One student’s story captures this so well. Having decided to challenge the draining undermining of perpetual sexual harassment in public places, the taxi rank in particular, this student determined to take a different approach. She needed to stop the pervasive destruction of victimisation that comes from simply swallowing the bad behaviour of the perpetrators.

Acknowledging risk factors, she approached the rank flanked with a few friends for safety in numbers. Armed with a plan for a new way to respond to the inevitable, she assertively answered back to the first man who “vloeked” her.

 She nearly fell over from the blast of his aggressive comeback. Frightened, she at first retreated. Then she reflected. And she changed her mind. She switched from fearful to angry. She had been polite. She had tried to explain that she didn’t want to be treated like a sex object. And he just got worse. That is unjust. It’s nothing to do with typical and traditional. It’s plain lack of respect based on gender. Now she is righteously angry and determined to speak up again and again to demand that she be treated with respect. She wants to grow as a whole human, not cower into a small scared shell. 

Much of what makes this all possible is the historical culture of an enabling critical intellectual space. Education at PMB campus has traditionally taken the praxis role of the public intellectual very seriously. Still having in our midst some staff members of activist extraction from as far back as the 70s and 80s we have a proud tradition to work from. Interconnected feminist revival, here and elsewhere around the world, being brought into university theory and practice are helping us to keep up this role of critical transformation for a world where everyone matters.

* Jane Quin writes in her personal capacity.

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A Lecturer in the Graduate School of Business and Leadership Studies, Thea van der Westhuizen, is a Director of the Global Marine Conservation Initiative called Paddle for the Planet (P4P).

 P4P is an international non-profit organisation which aims to contribute towards sustainable marine reserve conservation across the globe by raising awareness among paddlers about the importance of such conservation, uniting paddlers and acting on the ethical responsibility of paddlers towards marine conservation.

As part of the international Board of Directors, some of van der Westhuizen’s international responsibilities involve helping the not-for-profit organisation grow as well as organising events on a global scale. 

In 2013, P4P helped raise awareness about Marine Conservation.  In conjunction with World Environment Day, more than 26 countries participated in P4P’s signature awareness-raising global paddling relay event. The relay was in the form of a time zone "pass-on" - when one time zone finished the next one started.

The Surfski enthusiast -  back in South Africa after spending almost 10 years working in the United Arab Emirates and challenging herself mentally, physically and professionally – spoke about this year’s goal of raising US$58 000 for marine conservation.

‘After being in the Middle East for almost decade I got really sick last year and I had to come back home and figure out how to have a balanced life spiritually, financially and how to give back to the community,’ said van der Westhuizen.

That journey led to her joining a Watersport Training and Coaching Group known as the MacSquad. Under the skilful guidance of coach Lee McGregor and his son Hank who is a multiple world champion, the squad are preparing for several watersport challenges.

At the recent 2013 ICF Ocean Racing World Championship in Portugal van der Westhuizen walked away with a bronze medal in her age group and a gold medal in her age group in the women’s doubles race. The pair also achieved a second place overall in the women’s doubles in the Surfski World Champs.

‘The achievement is great, but I could not have done it without the MacSquad and their inspirational way of training that is not only about physical endurance but is centred on a healthy mind and a loving soul.  The programme requires us to paddle up to six times a week, plus gym and running,’ said van der Westhuizen.

She added that at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership she was exposed to a variety of theoretical approaches and viewpoints, which helped her try to make sense of the complexity of the world.

‘Academics in the GSB&L have phenomenal minds. I get inspired each and every time I hear them expressing their philosophies. It’s a very positive and dynamic environment to study and work in.  We are really blessed to have world-class academic staff right here at UKZN.’

In her academic career, van der Westhuizen is very interested in self-motivation, with the focus on entrepreneurship. Her PhD focuses on developing an action learning programme to enhance entrepreneurial self-efficacy, a method which is clearly working for her.

-Thandiwe Jumo

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DVC & Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter

‘Women’s Day means a day for reflection and celebration.  Reflecting and remembering the march to the union buildings reminds one of the collective power of women.  For me it is a day where I always try to do something for or with women who are less privileged. I would like to say to women: never fear falling or failing. Those who never fall have never attempted the climb.’

Ms Mary Smith, Administrator

Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on what it is to be a woman at work, at home and also part of a diverse, colourful society. Women have to juggle the work-life balance by being productive members of their work team, but also loving wives and mothers and we have to acknowledge that it isn’t humanely possible to get the balance perfect all the time. We constantly suffer guilt regarding both motherhood and our careers, and often run ourselves ragged trying to keep everyone happy. As women are nurturers, they tend to constantly put others first: their bosses, colleagues, husbands and children. So my advice would be to remind them to stop and think about themselves on women’s day: what they may be missing, what their needs and desires may be. Not taking the time to identify or address your own needs can lead to depression, low self-esteem and regrets.  I urge you to stop, assess your situation and try to improve your circumstances. And above all, keep your girlfriends close as they are likely to be your biggest support group.’

Ms Gugu Mkhize, Zulu Languages Lecturer

‘Women’s day celebrates and recognises women from all walks of life. Women are nurturers and should be cherished as they take care of their families and they have that inner strength and intelligence. Society views women as emotional beings but that is not the truth, we instead are able to look at all avenues of a situation and then make wise informed decisions. As women, we have the drive and passion to achieve all our goals and women should forge forward and be the best that they can.’

Mrs Michelle Naicker, Finance Operations Office (Creditors)

‘Women's day is a pause in our busy lives to celebrate the victory of a democratic freedom that we take for granted. Let us never forget the "price of this freedom", put aside self-centred greed for power and wealth and reach out unconditionally to our dear sisters who may be "silent victims" of personal struggles. This is the greatest tribute we can play to those dear women who risked their lives for the successes we enjoy today.’

Dr Joyce Chitja, Lecturer in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

I would like to share this from Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. As women we should embrace our unique design and nature. We must build people for a greater good, if we do the workplace would be a better place for all.’

Ms Adeshini McIntosh, HR Consultant in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

‘What I love most about being a woman is being called mummy. Mums are just so special.’

Ms Swastika Maney, Public Relations Officer, College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

‘A mother, A sister, A friend…Here’s to all you awesome women, may we know them, may we be them, and most importantly, may we raise them…Always aim to be a once in a lifetime kinda woman!’ 

Ms Suna Kassier, Lecturer in the Discipline of Dietetics, College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

‘There is no elixir like hope and no tonic so strong as the promise of tomorrow.’ 

Ms Smangele Ninela, Academic Administration Officer

‘Women’s Day recognises women not only as wives and mothers but  highlights their substantial contributions as members of society.’

Ms Kiru Naidoo, Personal Assistant to the Dean and Head of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership
‘Women’s month is an inspirational month as it highlights all of the wonderful achievements accomplished by women from all walks of life.’
Ms Thulisile Ntuli, Personal Assistant to the DVC of the College of Law and Management

‘For me women’s month means aspiring and embracing all the possibilities out there to be women of positive influence and meaning in whatever we do.’

Ms Nandi Mhlongo, Administer for Primary Health Care in the School of Nursing and Public Health

‘I think South African women have come a long way and continue to make a significant contribution towards uplifting the nation. Women’s month recognises this.’

Mrs Fiona Walters, Senior Technician in the School of Nursing and Public Health

‘I really enjoy my job as a technician, even though it is a male-dominated field. Women can do well in any career if they put their minds to it.’

Ms Nivashnie Hamraj and Ms Merashni Jugroop, third-year Nursing students

‘Nursing needs a lot of compassion. It’s a calling, especially for women.’

Mrs Charlene Pillay, PA to the Director for College Professional Services (Health Sciences)

‘Women’s month is a time when women get together in the community to remember the struggles in the past and interests they have in common.’

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