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15 August 2023
EMS Women's Month Webinar 3

Across the globe women are seeking justice sometimes using large-scale, highly visible public acts of resistance, but also using “under-the-radar” daily defiances that chisel away the spatial structure of patriarchies. Using the politics of presence, our speakers focus on the transgressive and less visible spatial struggles and practices of women in Iranian cities and South Africa against the backdrop of gendered spatial orders of exclusion that local activists refer to as “gender apartheid.”

The current urban infrastructure multi-crisis around housing, load-shedding, water price hikes and transport, against a backdrop of persistent spatial apartheid and the shedding of decent jobs has meant a frontal attack on the majority of South Africa’s women. Neoliberal precarity means that a growing number of young men and women have to improvise their livelihoods. At the same time, young activists and equalisers are finding new ways of translating the personal into the political and enlarging protest movements into broader political agendas. This session features women speakers who focus on housing occupations in the City of Cape Town struggles of young women in schools and women’s struggles in Iran.  The Chair of the session will provide a brief context for women's activism.

Key words for this session
Gender apartheid, Transnational knowledge production, housing, spatial struggles and practices, Iran and South Africa


Zelda Holtzman: The context of women’s struggles in Democratic South Africa
Zelda is director of Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education and a co-partner in UWC Citizens Commons

Zelda Holtzman was a student and youth activist since the late ‘70s participating in worker solidarity campaigns and student and youth organisations. As a young woman in the early ‘80s, she served on the Steering Committee formed to herald the first non-racial women’s organisation in South Africa, the United Women’s’ Organisation (UWO) and was elected onto its first executive. She was an active cadre in the underground structures of the ANC and the SACP from 1980 until the unbanning of political organisations.

After her release from detention in 1983, she was restricted from teaching and worked as a trade union volunteer with MWASA (Media Workers Association of South Africa). As an active member of civic, youth and women’s organisations in Mitchells Plain, she helped to form and build the UDF (United Democratic Front), a broad front against Apartheid.  She has been involved with #UniteBehind, a broad coalition of People’s Organisations, formed to fight against corruption and state capture, since its inception in 2017.
Prof Faranak Miraftab: “Iran’s gender apartheid and Transnational knowledge production”
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Department of Gender & Women's Studies

A native of Iran, Faranak did her undergraduate studies at the Tehran University. She graduated with a Master's degree in Architecture at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim and then completed doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Over the years she has researched and taught in several countries including Chile, Mexico, Canada, Australia, South Africa, the United States and most recently Togo. In 2014 she was awarded University Scholar, a prestigious award the University of Illinois bestows on its faculty for excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.
Ntsiki Dlulani: “Equal Education and Inequality: Dreams and realities”
Ntsiki is Head of Equal Education in the Western Cape, A movement striving for quality and equality in South Africa's education system which holds that every generation has its struggle! Ntsiki has played a leading role in school based struggles including audits of safety and sanitation at schools.
Karen Hendricks, “Land, housing and women in the Occupation”
Karen is a social justice activist with Reclaim the City and is currently part of the Cissie Gool occupation. Karen Hendricks served as Woodstock Reclaim the City chapter leader Karen has been involved with hundreds of citizens who have been living at Cissie Gool House, Woodstock. The group forms part of Reclaim the City, a movement which aims to ensure people have decent and affordable housing.