Sunday Tribune

Stop patronisin­g women in literature – language doctor


NEWLY qualified doctor of African languages Irene Makhwaza has challenged African authors to make a conscious effort to improve the way they portray women in their literary texts.

In her thesis, the Westville resident expresses concern that gender empowermen­t and female heroes are not often portrayed in African literature, especially books written in isizulu.

“My research was mostly based on male authors but I challenge male and female authors to write books where girls will find role models. They must make a conscious effort to do this because the books they write could end up on a lap of a girl as a prescribed text,” said Makhwaza, who graduated from the University of Zululand on Wednesday.

She said the majority of books available follows a pattern of gender inequality and doesn’t promote the rights of women or their emancipati­on.

“Women are often portrayed based on stereotype­s that they are gossipers, gold-diggers or are submissive. South Africa has grown a lot as a country since 1994 and women hold positions that they previously could not, but our literature has not transforme­d much.”

Makhwaza, 58, has extensive experience in education, including teaching in high schools around Durban and lecturing at Zakheni College of Education in Ladysmith.

Before early retirement in 2014, she worked as an education specialist in the examinatio­ns and assessment­s unit of the Department of Education in the Pinetown District.

“I decided to take early retirement mostly because of my health. I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997. The doctors tried to remove it but said the operation was unsuccessf­ul because it was too attached to the brain.

“Unfortunat­ely, the cancer has affected the section of the brain which controls my sight and I’ve lost sight in my left eye,” Makhwanza said.

The year she retired, she registered for her PHD; her motivation was “self-actualisat­ion and personal growth”.

“My three daughters kept reminding me that my education in African languages was not complete with just a master’s degree so I decided to give it a try.”

Asked about her own role models, Makhwaza said her 87-year-mother, Lydia Mzoneli, showed her that a woman could do anything a man could do.

“She was a businesswo­man, a mother and a wife and in all her roles she showed resilience and strength.”

 ??  ?? Dr Irene Makhwaza with her mother, Lydia Mzoneli and husband,thami Makhwaza, on a day of her graduation.
Dr Irene Makhwaza with her mother, Lydia Mzoneli and husband,thami Makhwaza, on a day of her graduation.

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