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Africa Policy Journal

Topic / Gender, Race and Identity

#APJFiresideChat: A conversation with Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The Africa Policy Journal team was excited and honored to host Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Africa Policy Journal Fireside Chat. The event, held on Friday, March 25, 2022, was held in collaboration with the Harvard University Center for African Studies.

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke on a range of issues, from expanding women’s civil and political participation, to her experiences while leading UN Women.

Sherilyn Naidoo, a South African LLM Candidate at the Harvard Law School, asks Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka a question during the #APJFiresideChat. Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

“You need to think and see how gender issues are integrated into your studies. Gender neutral policies are discriminatory. Raise these issues in class, at the individual level, make that decision. It is bad corporate governance to be a sexist policy maker,” Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka told the room of students spanning from different Harvard schools.

Blog photo, APJFiresideChat
Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks with Prof. Akyeampong of the Harvard Center for African Studies, ahead of the #APJFiresideChat. Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

She spoke of the importance of engaging men in conversations, and actions, around gender based violence and gender equality. “There is definitely increase in the men who are speaking against gender discrimination issues. We are targeting men in power to speak against these issues, we also work with boys and children and engage them together,” she said.

She noted that engaging men in issues of gender equality is important, and is a collective responsibility. “It is important to continuously involve men in cleaning their mess — it’s a collective responsibility,” she said.

Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka shares insights from her experience advocating for gender equality and digital literacy, at the #APJFiresideChat. The event was moderated by Adaobi Ezeokoli, Editor-In-Chief at the Africa Policy Journal. Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

She urged those in attendance, especially the students in the room, not to forsake the world of politics, after they were done at Harvard. “You have to go into politics. You cannot leave politics to the worst people. The more you move away from politics, the more you leave it for people who are not qualified. We want thinkers and people who care about people at politics,” she said.  

Members of the Africa Policy Journal team, at the #APJFiresideChat with Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka. From left; Noah Asfaw, Jeffah Ombati, Ada Ezeokoli, Shambhavi Singh, Monique Motty, and Michelle St.Clair. Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka is the Former Executive Director of UN Women, and former Deputy President of South Africa. She is the founder of Umlambo Foundation, a Gender Activist and a Campaigner for Universal Access to Education. She has devoted her career to issues of human rights, equality and social justice. Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka has worked in government, private sector and civil society and was actively involved in the struggle to end apartheid in her home country of South Africa.

Lindsay Moats, Student Support and Outreach Officer at the Center for African Studies, presents Dr. Mlambo-Ngcuka with a token of appreciation, at the #APJFiresideChat. Photo Credit: Martha Stewart.

She is currently a Hauser Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership.

For more photos from the #APJFiresideChat, check out the Harvard Center for Public Leadership Flickr page: