Alumni Seminar: Women leading for social justice

On Saturday, November 25th, Canon Collins alumni, scholars, partners and friends gathered for our second Annual Alumni Seminar at the Ford Foundation in Johannesburg. The theme of this year’s seminar was ‘Women leading for social justice’ and we were privileged to hear from two exceptional alumni who are dedicating their careers to the pursuit of gender justice and equality in South Africa and the wider region.

Professor Juliet Perumal (Vice Dean of Research and Internationalisation at the University of Johannesburg) is a leading thinker in the fields of Gender and Education. She led the seminar with a powerful presentation addressing the silencing of women’s stories in history, her own “feminist awakening” and the need for progressive educational practices to critique patriarchal societal norms. When it comes to the subjugation of women, Prof Perumal reminded us to not only “question the answers, but also question the questions”.

Following her presentation, Prof Perumal engaged in a stimulating conversation with fellow alumna, Ntokozo Yingwana, who is a scholar-activist, sex workers rights advocate and researcher at African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University, around gender, activism and academia. Both women highlighted the importance of inclusivity and intersectionality, centring lived-experience and avoiding elitism within feminism. Opening up the discussion to the audience of alumni, scholars and friends of the Trust, the conversation turned to acknowledging the trauma associated with feminist activism and emphasizing the need for activists to prioritize self-care.

It was a pleasure to engage with our wonderful network of activist scholars on such important and timely issues, just in advance of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. We hope to continue having these conversations and supporting the many brilliant women leading for social justice within the Canon Collins network in the years to come.

In the words of another inspiring alumna Nicolette Naylor: “It’s time for women to step in and lead the conversation”.