Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning and patron of the GBN, says the network was established in 2017. “Some individual members participate through the donation of funds in support of student organisations, while others are active members, helping to organise events and assisting students,” he says.
Funding to support good ideas
“We could see early on that students struggled to raise funds for their activities at the NWU. As these groups are generally small, the capacity to support good ideas and initiatives that need funding is limited. These kinds of limitations often make it difficult for groups to organise and sustain themselves, let alone promote awareness of gender and sexual orientation issues among the student community.”
He says the NWU management recognises that a wide spectrum of the public support people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+), although they may not be part of this group. “We decided to set up a network of sympathetic individuals who contribute either in terms of time or money to support events and students.”
Participate in Women’s Month programme
Robert says the GBN, which supports activities on all three of the NWU’s campuses, is also instrumental in supporting the LGBTIQ+ events that take place throughout the year.
In early August, an exciting programme is planned for Women’s Month, with a particular initiative themed Gender Awareness Week (2 to 8 August). A range of different events such as student-staff workshops, seminars and an exhibition will be part of the proceedings.
“Everyone should be part of this very important initiative and can show their support through active participation and donations,” says Robert.
A group of students of the NWU’s campus in Vanderbijlpark recently held an LGBTIQ+ student event. Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, was one of the guests.
The Gender Benefit Network (GBN) is a voluntary network of staff and students, and also people from outside the NWU, which promotes human rights in general and is specifically active in the area of gender and diversity at the NWU.
The fund is administered by the NWU through the university’s normal financial systems and is supported by the Office of Student Life and the administration of student societies.
Applications to use funding normally come from the chairpersons of the campus-based student groups, or from academics and staff keen to organise an event featuring gender awareness or issues relating to identity and representation.
The Campus Pride team (chairperson Diandrio Danster) at the campus in Potchefstroom organised an event to discuss important themes such as religion, authenticity and coming out, among others.
Dr Jacques Rothman from Sociology gave a presentation about research emanating from his PhD on academics and different models of sexual identity. The approximately 60 people who attended participated in a lively discussion of issues common to people in the LGBTIQ+ community.
At the campus in Vanderbijlpark, the LGBTIQ+ group (chairperson Pulane Ratikoane) arranged a photo exhibition and discussion of sexual orientation. The theme of this event was, “I’m me, HUMAN” and focused on educating people about different sexual orientations and ensuring that all people are seen as human beings first and foremost, rather than being labelled or categorised into different sexual orientations.
Special guests included the ANOVA Health Institute, NWU Student Counselling and Development (Tsholo Mthimkhulu) and Zaza (William Fisher). Students of the LGBTIQ+ society from the neighbouring Vaal University of Technology also supported the event.
The LGBTIQ+ Transformation Movement at the campus in Mahikeng (chairperson Sam Mbatha) organised an event with the theme, “Closeted conversations”. This was about creating a safe and conducive space to have conversations, engagement and dialogue among one another.
The event dealt with issues concerning coming out of the closet, safety, relationships and navigating in spaces of higher learning, the aspirations of LGBTIQ+ people and the importance of affirming one another.
The challenges associated with campus life were also discussed. These included the need for more inclusive awareness of difference, the damage inflicted by negative stereotyping and the need for more visible role models, among others.
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For more information on the Gender Benefit Network (GBN), you can contact Prof Robert Balfour at 018 285 2106. If you would like to contribute to the GBN fund, you can sign up for a debit order or make a deposit to the following account:
Account holder name: North-West University
Account name: NWU Diverse
Account number: 670642313
Account type: Cheque
Branch Name: ABSA Tom Street
Branch code: 632005
Swift code: ABSAZAJJ
Reference for your debit order: Campus Pride
Gender Benefit Network and LGBTIQ+ =
upholding human rights