DOMESTIC workers, mothers, grandmothers, academics and politicians were celebrated yesterday when the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University hosted the Celebrating the Curves of Humanity programme.
The Missionvale campus event was their first to mark the annual Women's Day and was held as part of Diversity month.
Campus director Dr Phakama Ntshongwana said the event was about revelling in the nurture and nature of women's lives, basking in their beauty and celebrating the achievements and power of their minds.
"Women play a great role in humanity. We are breadwinners in our homes, leaders and dedicated workers in our different spheres, nurturers, innovators, just to name a few.
"As women, we have an intricate, curvaceous beauty that allows us to bear children – a kind of beauty that gives us the strength to raise our children well under the most challenging circumstances."
The packed event at the Missionvale Indoor Sports Centre was attended by students, artists, politicians and academics, including acting city manager Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, dean of students Khaya Matiso, Centre for the Advancement of Non-racialism and Democracy head Allan Zinn and the keynote speaker, Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly Nomaindia Mfeketo.
Ntshongwana said women overcame many issues, including limited education, to feed, protect, discipline and educate the "seed of the soil".
"[Women are] our future leaders, future educators, health professionals and pioneers of technology. We have women here, in our midst, who have surpassed all expectation, emerging from difficult conditions but have come out the other end as leaders, social workers, politicians, educators.
"Sithi huntshu maqhawekazi [go well and prosper heroines]. We celebrate you today, phenomenal women. To the artists of our soil, those in our midst and those who have passed on, musicians, poets, actors, thank you for the inspiration. Siyabulela."
She also thanked women in academia who conceptualised research agendas, marked thousands of scripts and kept education alive in South Africa.
"Thousands of women in our country have been domestic workers, keeping homes clean, raising other people's children while theirs are raising themselves. We acknowledge your sacrifice today."
She finished by reciting a slightly modified version of Maya Angelou's poem, Phenomenal Woman.
Poet Nomsa Mazwai then recited four poems including Little Girl, which celebrates and acknowledges all women who have accomplished great things beyond the labels they have been given.
Main speaker Mfeketo, who was the first black woman elected mayor of Cape Town, said she was passionate about women's struggles.
"'Women's struggle' doesn't necessarily mean women were fighting with men."
They were talking about educating the nation about stereotypes, gender equality and what people saw as the role of women in society.
"It is important that while we celebrate the achievements of women, we do not forget the silent victims of patriarchy, sexual violence and forced marriages. The consequences of rape and other forms of sexual violence often linger after the act."
Men and women needed to work in partnership to find solutions, she said.
The four-hour event closed with an interactive session on gender issues before Miss NMMU 2013 Chumisa Ndlazi gave a closing vote of thanks.