It is with grave sadness that we have learnt of the passing of human rights activist Rhoda Kadalie at the weekend. Ms Kadalie played a pivotal role in gender equality at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and beyond.
Ms Kadalie passed away at home over the weekend in the United States, where she had been living with family.
She was an illustrious alumna of UWC, an activist in the struggle against apartheid, and served in President Nelson Mandela’s administration as a commissioner of the South African Human Rights Commission.
Ms Kadalie was instrumental in establishing the pioneering the Gender Equity Unit at UWC in 1993, after having shown a passion for promoting women’s rights, says her successor at the Unit, Dr Mary Hames. Dr Hames described Kadalie as "fierce and fearless". She also established the Women's and Gender Studies programme at UWC.
“What she has done for women, not only at the university, but countrywide, is immeasurable,” said Dr Hames.
Dr Hames said Ms Kadalie established the unit at a time when "gender issues were not regarded as important". Her work saw gender and sexual harassment policies developed at the university as well as equal pay. She was at the forefront of successfully campaigning for maternity and paternity benefits for academics, equal housing benefits, and the promotion of women in the academic hierarchy.
Ms Kadalie, who completed her arts degree at UWC, fought for women to be promoted to professorships and for female representation in leadership bodies.
"There was a time when there were hardly any non-governmental organisations in South Africa that didn't have a former student of Rhoda's fighting for women's rights and feminism," said Dr Hames.
Our thoughts, prayers and condolences to the Kadalie family at this time. May her dear soul rest in peace.
We have lost an influential giant who made a telling contribution – not only to UWC but to the broader liberation of women in our society and through her tireless pursuit of human rights and dignity.Prof Tyrone Pretorius
Rector and Vice-Chancellor