Professor Maheshvari Naidu is proud of her one master’s and five PhD students that received degrees in Anthropology, Gender Studies, International Relations and Peace Studies. All were qualitative studies that drew on rich empirical data.
Naidu said that each of the students faced challenges and triumphed to earn their degrees.
Three are mothers of young children and two were pregnant while completing their PhDs. One student suffered bereavement while others navigated their ways through medical challenges as well as the challenge of living apart from their families.
‘I make no secret that I have an agenda to increase the critical mass of female postgraduates, not merely numerically, but meaningfully. To this end, all five female students, (as well as the sixth male student) engaged in critically important gendered research,’ Naidu added.
Dr Rosheena Jeawon’s research was titled: ‘Sugar Daddy’ Relationships and the Construction of Traditional African Masculinities and approached this topic from the unique perspective of the male. Jeawon said that it was a challenge to balance her personal, professional and academic life. Her highlight was receiving assistance from author, Mr Maphoto who is a writer in the field.
‘The PhD journey cannot be achieved without a dedicated and committed supervisor. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Maheshvari Naidu. Her continuous support of my research and PhD study, her immense knowledge as well as enthusiasm and patience are greatly appreciated. I could not have imagined a better mentor and advisor for this study. Lastly, I would like to thank my family for their spiritual and emotional support,’ said Jeawon. She dedicated her achievement to her late father, Mr RR Jeawon.
Dr Roselyn Kanyemba’s study on Normalization of Misogyny: Sexist Humour in a Higher Education Context focused on sexist humour and its contribution to the creation of hostile campuses for women. Her research addressed an issue that has been neglected in the field of sexism and Higher Education as previous studies tended to focus on overt expressions of sexual harassment.
The study established that sexist joking normalises rape culture and hostile campuses and needs to be addressed with the same seriousness as other overt expressions of violence that occur on university campuses.
Kanyemba shared that she fell pregnant during the first year of the study and had a tough pregnancy and was always in hospital. ‘My supervisor, Professor Naidu, was very supportive and encouraged me until the end. Without her, this PhD would not have been possible,’ she said. ‘I wish to acknowledge my husband, Vumiso, and my sister, Vimbai, for their help and encouragement. I dedicate this PhD to my son, Anashe Luthando.’
Dr Tariro Mukwidigwi’s PhD, Gendered (A) Symmetries: Experiences of Sexual Coercion among Female University Students interrogated the power dynamics underlying experiences of sexual coercion. The study aimed to enhance female students’ sexual health, rights and citizenship. Its findings could inform interventions that consider female students as active and agentic beings and empower them to take control of their sexual experiences and ameliorate the effects of sexual coercion. Mukwidigwi said that Naidu was a great mentor who taught her to push herself; this allowed her to discover the fighter in her. She added that doing a PhD is not a solitary experience and thanked her husband, family, colleagues and friends for their emotional support. She specifically thanked her parents to whom she dedicated her thesis.
Dr Victoria Marcia Mutambara’s study on Xenophobia and Human Security: Gender-based Violence Experiences of Zimbabwean Women Working in the Informal Sector examined the xenophobic and gender-based harassment that Zimbabwean migrant women encounter in their quest for a sustainable livelihood in South Africa.
Whilst xenophobia and gender-based violence might seem to be separate terms with different meanings the study revealed that there is fluidity between the two as most migrant women are in double jeopardy because of their identity as foreign as well as being female.
Mutambara said that her academic journey was not easy as it was difficult to balance professional work and campus work, and as a result, her studies suffered. ‘I am forever indebted to God who connected me to a great helper, my supervisor, Professor Naidu who believed in me from the start and kept pushing me to do my best, even on days when I felt like the walls were closing in on me,’ she said. ‘I wish to dedicate this study to my dear parents, husband and little daughter, for they gave me strength throughout this journey.’
Dr Paul Awoniyi’s PhD was on Probing Indigenous Gender and Water Management Practices in Selected Rural Settlements of Ondo. The study documents critical insights generated by various rural water management practices, the impact of women’s participation in local water management and the gendered use of water. His major challenge was missing his family. ‘Also, my initial inability to keep up with my supervisor’s super pace which payed off eventually and is making me a better researcher,’ he added.
Awoniyi described his supervisor as an energetic mentor with incredible intellectual prowess. ‘My deep gratitude also to Professor Ayobami Salami who gave me this opportunity.’ He thanked his wife Joyce who stood by him with unconditional love. ‘I want to thank my children, Pazel, Grazina and Gedalya who endured lonely periods. Also, to my parents, Pastor and Mrs Awoniyi and Pastor and Mrs Akintoye, my siblings and in-laws. Your encouragement, financial, moral and emotional support has enabled this to become a reality,’ he said. Awoniyi dedicated his work to God.
Ms Yolanda Mthethwa’s MA, Gendered Behavior: Probing Instagram in Perpetuating Curvaceous Body Ideal aimed to uncover how Black women are influenced by the idealised curvaceous body on Instagram. The study contributes to the literature by probing the role that social media (particularly Instagram) plays in ‘body disturbance’ among young Black women by perpetuating such ideal bodies.
‘The main challenge for my master’s journey was time management. It was challenging to make time for my work especially because I had a two-year old daughter to take care of. There was a lot of procrastinating. My supervisor assisted me whenever I needed help with my research and more than anything, she pushed me to work hard and finish on time,’ she said. ‘I would like to thank my mother for her enormous love and support throughout my journey, and I dedicate this master’s to her to show her my immense gratitude.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Rogan Ward