UKZN Launches BRICS Student Commission and Student Women Economic Empowerment Project Chapter
‘As students, continuously seek answers to the pressing questions of our time. Keep asking, keep probing, but always remember that merely dreaming and questioning are not enough to fulfil your aspirations. It is the dedicated effort and commitment towards your dreams that will bring them to life.’ These inspiring words were shared by KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Honourable Nomusa Dube-Ncube, during her keynote address at the launch of two impactful initiatives at UKZN: the BRICS Student Commission (BRICS SC) and the Student Women Economic Empowerment Project (SWEEP) Chapter, in honour of Global Entrepreneurship.
She said the launch of the BRICS SC and SWEEP Chapter was groundbreaking. Applauding the student body and the University, she said, ‘We wish you well and look forward to working together in the future to build a better KwaZulu-Natal for the upliftment of our people.’
Dube-Ncube highlighted her office’s numerous programmes to upskill the youth and reduce unemployment: ‘We are working with young people to place creativity and innovation at the doorstep of our province, because our future depends on it.’
In her opening address, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Busi Ncama noted the successful hosting of the 15th BRICS Summit in South Africa and said that the inauguration of the BRICS SC is a significant step in UKZN’s internationalisation strategy. She added that the University was equally excited to launch SWEEP which will enhance its ongoing efforts to empower women.
Ms Zana Boshoff Project Manager of Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education within Universities South Africa gave a brief background on SWEEP that was established in 2021 to address gender-based violence and economically empower female students.
She said that the student chapter will be ‘responsible for organising events, workshops and various other activities that promote entrepreneurship and support the growth of female students, providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge and support to be successful, independent entrepreneurs.’
In their votes of thanks Chairperson of UKZN’s BRICS SC Mr Lungile Radebe encouraged students to ensure that they benefit from change and described the SC as an opportunity for them to make their mark globally. President of SWEEP UKZN Ms Nobuhle Mzobe highlighted its role in promoting entrepreneurship and financial independence, and reducing gender-based violence among women students.
Delivering messages of support, Mr Mzweleni Mthethwa National BRICS SC President at the University of Zululand acknowledged the Office of the Premier for supporting the student chapter. National SWEEP Chairperson and Mangosuthu University student, Ms Mbalenhle Nzama urged the UKZN chapter to address the issues faced by women students across the University and quoted Melinda Gates: ‘An investment in women is an investment in an individual that invests in everyone else.’
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, three student entrepreneurs were given an opportunity to pitch their businesses. Winner, Ms Khethelo Sibisi the owner of Naturena Hair Products walked away with R24 000 sponsored by UKZN InQubate to further develop her product and business support valued at R20 000 sponsored by two student owned businesses, Geleza Mzanzi and Scent Africa.
Successful podcaster Mr Penuel Mlotshwa shared some entrepreneurial insights, including: using your phone to tell your story; getting into tenders/procurement because there’s money to be made; exploring the type of programmes and initiatives run by government; seeking assistance from funding agencies; and voting for politicians that are going to make a real difference.
Mlotshwa also facilitated a panel discussion between Ms Thembelihle Mapipa CEO of the Moses Kotane Institute and Mr Thulisa Ndlela National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) board member that explored the various student programmes, funding options and bursaries available from these institutions.
Entertainment was provided by UKZN student and Afro pop songstress, Black Blondy as well as Maskandi artist, Gujazi Hlongwane.
In his closing remarks, Mr Khutšo Ramontja Student Entrepreneurship Manager at UKZN InQubate thanked the Premier, and representatives of government departments and entities for their investment in the youth and united efforts to promote progress in the province. He acknowledged students for their unwavering commitment to address challenges in their communities saying, ‘As UKZN we take immense pride in your endeavours and fully support your efforts as you implement your innovative programmes.’
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela
Photographs: Sethu Dlamini