Having started the week off with a Queer in Africa dialogue on Monday, followed by a Safe Space Training Day programme on Tuesday, celebrations peaked with the hoisting of the Pride flag alongside the South African and Nelson Mandela University flags in front of the South Campus main administration building, Embizweni, on 16 October.
The flag hoisting is believed to be a first for a South African public higher education institution – where the Pride flag is hoisted in a prime location. The flag will be hoisted daily for the remainder of October, which is the University’s Pride Month.
Project coordinator Ryan Pillay said the purpose of the series of engagements is to deepen the University community’s understanding of diversity and to foster the appreciation, respect and celebration thereof.
“The intention is to foster a culture that welcomes and respects diverse identities, heritages and life experiences. Mandela University Pride is a moment for the entire University community to stop and think about who we are as an institution of higher learning and how we become inclusive in ways that are both empowering and affirming,” says Pillay.
“[Our] Institutional Culture is one that is inclusive with a strong indicator “to engender a needed sense of connectedness between and among varied constituents associated with a campus” (Toma et al, 2005).
“Through connecting the different publics both internally and externally, “institutional culture can pay real dividends, particularly in external relations and in building the campus community that is so critical in student affairs, but also in managing administrative and academic units.”
The three-day commemoration of Pride has been anchored on awareness and education in a bid to create a more inclusive society where values of diversity, Ubuntu, social justice and equality are engendered and lived.
In addition, part of the University’s mission is “to offer a diverse range of life-changing educational experiences for a better world”.
The University, through its value of respect for diversity, aims to promote an open society where critical scholarship and the expression of a multiplicity of opinions and ideas are actively encouraged.
Through specific plans to realise the fore mentioned, the University launched the Women and Gender Studies Centre earlier this month, which was a culmination of several years of discussion among students and staff, who were interested and concerned about the lack of women and gender-related matters being mainstreamed within the institution.
The Queer in Africa dialogue had panellists that included gender and LGBTQI activist Funeka Soldaat, University of the Western Cape’s Anthropology and Sociology associate professor Zethu Matebeni, Rhodes University student, Phumelele Nkomozake and Sociologist and Mandela University researcher Ryan Pillay.
The Mandela University Pride Month celebrations programme will end off with the launch of Zizo Apleni’s tell-all book My Father took away my Innocence: Purified and Sanctified at Last on Wednesday evening.
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