An exploration of women experiences in student leadership in the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Shabalala, Fisani Digracia.
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The aim of my research is to explore the experiences of women in student leadership at the University of KwaZulu- Natal (UKZN). My research tries to understand challenges that are faced by women who are in student leadership positions and to understand obstacles that hinder women from participating in student leadership The research answered three critical questions: How do the women students describe their leadership experiences? How do the women students learn to lead? How does the environment in which the women lead and learn to lead, affect their leadership experiences? To achieve the above I have drawn on the theory of oppression to understand women student leaders’ experiences as outlined by Young (2000) and Hardiman & Jackson (1997). Young and Hardiman & Jackson suggest that a group of persons are oppressed on the bases that they are different from other groups. The dominant group is privileged in the process while the subordinate internalise their subordination and perpetuate it by conforming to it. The study is qualitative. I used semi-structured interviews as an instrument for data collection. I used purposive sampling. I interviewed women student who have been leading in the SRC in the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Findings for study revealed that women student lead and learnt to lead under the oppressive environment. Although the environment where women learnt to lead is oppressive women were able to learn to lead. Further more the environment where women lead had a negative impact on women leadership experiences. Some women chose their traditional gender role over leadership positions. Some because of the hostile environment in the SRC internalised their subordination and became silence. Some women student leaders became aggressive. The study thus recommends the following strategies to be employed by the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal to enhance women participation in student leadership. (1) Leadership program to be included in the curriculum. (2) There should be leadership development program for all first year women students across all faculties. (3) Student parliament to be revived and be monitored. (4) Review of the SRC constitution regarding gender representation