Gender Equality and Beyond: Leveraging the Power of the Collective

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Executive Summary: Universities across Africa should join forces to tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence. A strategic partnership between SVAI and UJ has demonstrated the benefits of collaboration, including addressing global sustainability issues, developing a shared network, engaging students, collaborating on research, and curriculum development. This collaboration highlights the importance of working together to address gender inequality and gender-based violence.

By Prof Corné Davis

Gender Equality and Beyond

The importance of academia across the continent coming together to tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence, is underscored by the co-hosting of this year’s first African Universities Gender Equality Forum by the #ITSNOTOK movement, the Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The forum, held on International Women’s Day, provides an interactive platform for future leaders to share their perspectives on equality and encourages students from different African countries to raise their voices.

The strategic partnership between SVAI and UJ, which dates back to 2019, has been tremendously fruitful and beneficial to all stakeholders, including students, industry partners, and communities. In addition to supporting and participating in gender equality webinars and forums, successful collaborations include last year’s publication of the much-publicised report, called “The Costly Impact of Gender-based Violence. Private sector perceptions and realities in South Africa”.

SVAI, in collaboration with UJ and other universities across Africa, has presented workshops and lectures to postgraduate students, involved them in research projects, and hosted students at prestigious industry events on several occasions.

From a UJ perspective, we have participated in the African Academic Gender Equality Forum for the past three years and have been involved in numerous webinars hosted by SVAI and Shift, including a gender equality panel discussion at the prestigious Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit in Rwanda last year.

In a nutshell, the collaboration between UJ and SVAI has yielded the following key benefits:

  • Collaboration in projects that address global sustainability issues
  • A strong shared network including private sector organisations, non-government organisations, government organisations as well as civil society organisations
  • Students’ engagement in professional webinars and events
  • Collaborative research projects
  • Postgraduate and undergraduate guest lectures
  • Curriculum development
  • Exposure to and engagement with international universities
  • Invitations to industry events
  • Media exposure
  • Other partnerships

On a personal note, I see myself as very fortunate to have come across the SVAI when I was searching for information on gender-based violence activism in 2019. I saw their PowerPoint presentation on the website of the National Business Initiative and contacted them immediately. The concept of creating shared value had been included in my curricula for years and I have always appreciated the work of Professors Porter and Kramer of the Harvard Business School, so I knew we were on the same page from the word go.

The key message is that universities across Africa should join us and bring their students to collaborative platforms such as the African Universities Gender Equality Forum. The success of collaborative projects demonstrate the numerous benefits for universities from working together with organisations such as SVAI. Students need to see how their qualifications are not just about the jobs they will be doing, but also about the shared value they are responsible for creating.

We can achieve sustainability only when we recognise our collective responsibility to bring about change and to solve the problems we create.

Professor Corné Davis is Associate Professor: Strategic Communication at the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Corné Davis is a known gender-based violence and gender identity activist, lecturing undergraduate and postgraduate modules at the Department of Strategic Communication at UJ. She is a Trustee of Matla a bana, a well-known NGO who campaigns against child rape and secondary abuse; she is also an advisory to TEARS Foundations, who supports victims of GBV as well as an advisory to Hope to Heal Foundation, who works with Human Trafficking and GBV. She serves in Pillar six in the National Strategic Plan to address GBV in South Africa. She has been the lead researcher in the research report released at the JSE by Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) on 11 March 2022, called the Costly impact of GBV South Africa, private sector perceptions and realities.

Prof Davis is currently supervising three masters and four doctoral studies on GBV and gender equality. She is collaborating with SVAI on ongoing GBV and gender equality projects and is also working on the next GBV report, focusing on victims’ perspectives, in collaboration with TEARS Foundation. She has been interviewed on multiple television and radio channels and is recognised as an expert on GBV in South Africa.