Ladies and gentlemen, as I reflect on this journey to empower women in Africa through university education, I note that even in 859 AD, Fatima al – Fishiri, a princess from Tunisia, saw it fit to invest her family’s inheritance in education.  She established Al – Qarawiyyin University in Fes, Morocco, for her people to practise their faith and expand their education.  To date, the University stands as the oldest and first institution to issue educational degrees.  It has been recognised by UNESCO and the Guinness World Record.

My introduction is a throwback to issues of gender equality and the developmental impact that can be achieved when gender equality is recognised and accorded space to unleash its potential.  It is not an everyday talk that the oldest university was established in Africa, by a Muslim woman.  Africa is called by derogatory names known for its diseases and conflicts, and none initiators of great things with a development impact.  Access to resources, opportunities, economic participation and decision making requires accelerated efforts so that we can start to be known for our achievements.  There is need to continuously monitor and evaluate the Gender Equity Index (GEI) on economic participation, empowerment and education in favour of women if we are to attain equality in less than two centuries.  Do we have male led companies and Boards advocating for and calling for gender equity?  Do we have visible female role models in professions traditionally dominated by men?  As a university, we have celebrated such women through honorary degrees;  The likes of Ms Dorothy Masuku, a musician, Gloria Magombo, an engineer, Divine Ndlukula, an entrepreneur, Grace Muradzikwa, a business professional, Rebecca Chisamba, media socialite, Tsitsi Dangarembwa, an author, Kubi Indi, an entrepreneur and actress among others.  These women help to inspire fellow women, that yes, they can be leadership positions or professions traditionally dominated by men.

In September 2017 we attained our 15th birthday and celebrated in style.  We adopted a mascot in form an eagle which symbolises the courage displayed and endowed by women.  We also adopted a theme song; ‘She is an eagle when she flies by Dolly Patton to cement our fearlessness as women.  We pride ourselves for churning out 6909 graduates since 2005, of which 5195 are females who have largely taken up leadership positions.  The main aim of the university is to narrow the gap in decision making arena.  The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by most countries are interlinked and call for gender equality to achieve all.  As we implement our 2016 to 2020 Transformational Strategy, we are geared to increase reach of the university, introduce industry demand based programmes, commercialise our research outputs and invest in infrastructure development for conducive learning facilities.  This is to enhance our growth with quality mantra which has seen us from 145 first cohort to 3500 students in 2018 with over 25 programmes running across three faculties.  We are also proud to have introduced the following new programmes:-

The University continues to capacitate its administrative and faculty staff as a quality program strategy.    From its three tire mandate of teaching, research and community outreach, we endeavour to achieve both.  It is pleasing to reach out to the communities especially the less privileged.  The university students and staff stretched a hand of kindness to the Society of the Destitute Aged (SODA) in Highfields, Harare with groceries.  Schools in rural areas of Murehwa, Chikwaka and Goromonzi, namely, Mabika Secondary, Bosha Secondary and Chabwino Secondary received sanitary wear. 

As we increase our reach across Africa, the University is in the process of establishing a virtual centre at its Harare Campus in Manresa Park, Greendale, to enable lecture delivery via satellite.  In Zimbabwe we are now in Mutare, Bulawayo, Harare and Marondera, the Main Campus provided for in the Statutory Instrument 130 of 2004.

Faculties continue to seek solutions on matters of national interest through research and publications in refereed journals.  Sample areas looked at in 2017 covered the following:-

The University through its Research Board is establishing its refereed Journal to be known as “The African Journal of Women and Gender in Development”.  We are keen to be the research hub for gender issues.

The University is also going to comply with national requirements for modernisation and industrialisation to establish mandatory faculties as follows:-

The Gender Agenda is no one man’s project.  It requires the nation and the university friends and community that include the Alumni.  I call upon the over 6000 graduates since 2005 now in positions of influence to invest in your institution with a mammoth task to emancipate women. 

In conclusion, I want to extend our great appreciation to the organisations, individuals, partners, students and staff for always extending your hand of kindness at times of need.  These could be events, scholarships or campus construction.  As we strive to attain a world free of discrimination and exclusion, we feel energised to deliver our vision to be the best university in Africa in relation to the promotion of equity and equal opportunities in tertiary education.

Yes, Together We Can!

I thank you.

Professor Hope Cynthia Sadza