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Wits commits to gender equity

- By Wits University

Wits University today announced that it is joining the UN Women’s HeForShe solidarity movement as an IMPACT 10x10x10 champion, making Wits one of 10 universities around the world committing to take bold, game-changing action to achieve gender equality within and beyond their institutions.

This work will be done in partnership with UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In 2014, UN Women introduced HeForShe, which aims to mobilise one billion men and boys in support of gender equality.

Launched at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2015, HeForShe’s IMPACT 10x10x10 Program engages 30 key leaders across three sectors – the public sector, private sector and academia.

All 30 IMPACT champions have made common commitments and have also developed tailored commitments, formally reviewed by an expert team at UN Women and approved personally by the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Wits has committed to develop and implement a gender sensitisation curriculum for students, faculty and staff (including a mandatory orientation for all new students), along with programs that will address gender-based violence. It has also agreed to meet frequently with other IMPACT champions, to transparently measure and report on progress, to share best practices and to engage other universities to take up this cause.

“South Africa’s legacy of gender discrimination and violence is a reality that we fight daily. This is not a fight for women only. It is a fight for every person who abhors the abuse of power and the trauma of violence. It is a fight to ensure that the role of men in ending gender-based harm is as active participants and not passive observers; it is to ensure that patriarchy and inequality are uprooted; and to ensure that those who benefit from inequitable hierarchies are an equal part of their deconstruction. It is a fight that universities generally, and Wits University specifically, must be part of,” says Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib.

Professor Jackie Dugard, Director of the Wits Gender Equity Office, says that the University is deeply honoured to be part of this campaign and fully committed to the broader struggle for equality in South Africa and globally.

“The UN HeForShe campaign is an important international platform for highlighting and addressing gender based harm including sexism, sexual violence and gender equity gaps through regular reporting and monitoring of the stated commitments of key universities, companies and statespersons.”

Additionally Wits’ commitments to gender equality include:

Commitment 1: Develop a comprehensive system to report, predict, prevent, and address gender-based harm on Wits’ campus.

Commitment 2: Use non-traditional supporters to mainstream gender equality on the Wits campus.

Commitment 3: Increase the representation of women staff in the context of South Africa\s complex ‘dual diversity’ mandate.

IMPACT champions were selected based on their reputation for strong ethical practices, their demonstrated excellence in public service, their global reach and relevance, and their willingness to use their full footprint and influence to drive and inspire change across higher education.