MUT prepares to launch Gender Forum

Professor Nokuthula Sibiya

The University is well on its way to having a Gender Forum (GF) that will deal with gender-related issues. It gives great comfort that one of the founders is Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, who has experience of what the Gender Forum does. Professor Sibiya, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement (RIE), was part of the Gender Forum while she was at the Durban University of Technology. Professor Sibiya described ‘gender’ as “complex, multi-facetted aspect of humanity that shapes the way we think and behave as individuals, as a society and institution. Gender is also a deeply personal, subjective experience that informs our identity, intersecting with other dimensions, including but not limited to, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, class, and socio-economic status”. Such a description can only be from an individual that understands this important aspect of humanity.

According to Professor Sibiya, in any organisation there is a void if there is no platform that addresses gender-related issues. “For institutions of higher learning to be truly inclusive and transformative, appropriate platforms and spaces that allow for constructive engagement on gender-related issues need to be created,” said Professor Sibiya.  Professor Sibiya said that staff have been highlighting the need for a Gender Forum for several years now, one that would allow them to share their views, challenges, and ideas on how to achieve a more gender-inclusive and enabling culture at MUT. “The fact that there has not been a GF at MUT until now, has been deeply troubling and demotivating, more especially because it seemed to contradict and challenge the University’s strategic goal of being an enabling support environment for staff and students. I felt that the establishment of a GF was long overdue, and committed myself to ensuring that such a platform is established without further delay.”


Professor Sibiya listed several common gender-related issues that make it necessary to create the GF. Some of these are lack of understanding, or misconceptions and stereotypes around what constitutes gender and sexual orientation, gender equity, gender inclusion; lack of gender equity and transformation in respect of HR employment equity practices, professional and career mobility and advancement for women, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQIA; institutional culture and practices that do not reflect gender sensitivity and inclusivity across the gender spectrum; the need for transparency and accountability in cases involving abuse of power, discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the bases of gender and sexual orientation; and the absence, or inadequate GBV (gender-based violence) response and prevention strategies, and mechanisms for staff to report cases of GBV, and to be appropriately assisted. Professor Sibiya also added that the inadequate/ inefficient disciplinary procedures, lack of transparency and institutional accountability when cases are reported.

Professor Sibiya said that in giving solutions to these issues, the GF would provide opportunities for GF members to share their views and experiences on gender-related matters impacting on institutional operations, staff work experience, and holistic wellbeing. “The GF will also provide opportunities to participate in the development and review of gender-related policies, standard operating procedures, and strategies at the University. It will also offer its members a chance to participate in reviews of gender-sensitive practices, facilities, and resources available to staff at the University, with a view to improving and aligning these with national and international gender equity and gender transformative norms and legislature.” Professor Sibiya said those include but are not limited to human resources (HR) demographic classifications/ employment and promotions, facilities and resources, safety, and security.

She added that GF would offer members a unique opportunity to guide and support the University’s efforts to timeously identify and tackle gender discrimination and victimisation; sexism, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence in its various forms, perpetrated by and against, staff as well as between staff and students.

Professor Sibiya said that besides the website and newsletter, other innovative and creative ways of communicating will be explored once the forum has been launched. To strengthen member involvement and investment in the GF, ideas, and suggestions on how to enhance communication will be solicited from them.

Professor said that election of the Executive Committee (EXCO) and Extended Exco of the GF would take place on the day of the launch, “which will also be considered as the Annual General Meeting. Only members of the GF – those who completed the membership form and signed up, will be eligible to vote. It is therefore essential for all staff to sign up to be a GF member before the launch of the Gender Forum,” said Professor Sibiya.  The closing date for signing up for membership is 15 April 2024.