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23 August 2023
Cheryl Carolus: Women Belong at the Decision-Making Table
Anti-apartheid activist, politician and businesswoman Cheryl Carolus has called on women to not buckle under pressure in the fight for gender equality. Carolus, an alumna of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), was the keynote speaker at a Women’s Day event hosted over two days by the University’s Department for Institutional Advancement last week.

Known for her no-nonsense approach in the fight for gender equality, the social activist used the platform to highlight several areas where competent women were being overlooked. She called on the audience to take ownership of their careers and lives.
Anti-apartheid activist, politician and businesswoman Cheryl Carolus has
called on women to not buckle under pressure in the fight for gender equality

“Take responsibility for your own lives and wellness, financial wellness. There are a lot of people who have not sorted out their financial affairs before they get married. Hopefully you and your partner, you plan for the worst and hope for the best,’’ said Carolus.

Carolus, who was married to the late higher education expert and UWC lecturer Graeme Bloch, said she was often criticised for her continuous calls for more women to be acknowledged in male-driven sectors and industries.

Following South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Carolus declined a position in parliament but became the highest ranking woman to hold an executive position in the ANC.

“We know that for any woman to achieve a position of leadership, you have to be twice as good as men,’’ said the former ANC Secretary General. 
She further called on the women audience to keep pushing until they succeeded.

“I used the word ambition earlier. I said, I hope you are ambitious as hell, because when people refer to you as ambitious, if it’s a man then it’s OK, but if it’s a woman… ; remain ambitious as hell,’’ she said. 

Carolus’s keynote address at the Annual Women’s Day event was in aid of bursaries for women students at UWC.

UWC’s fundraising initiative called #AccesstoSuccess aims to change the harsh reality faced by some students. Donations from alumni, private businesses and UWC staff are used to fund academically-gifted students. 

Carolus, who also once held the position of Chief Executive Officer of South African Tourism, added that women need to believe they hold decision-making power.

“It’s also important to remember in the constitution making process, where we have legal equality. Women across political parties had to fight so that half the people who wrote the constitution had to be women.’’ 
Vera Adams, the manager of Donor
Relations and Fundraising

The two-day event proved to be a huge success and was well attended.

Vera Adams, the manager of Donor Relations and Fundraising, said: “The past two days have been a great way to celebrate and support women's empowerment while making a positive impact. All the proceeds raised will benefit academically-deserving women students. Higher education is a powerful tool that can make significant positive changes in the lives of women and in society as a whole. We as women have the power to excel, lead, create change, and to lead a nation. Thank you to all who supported the UWC Women’s Day events.’’ 

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