Back Chat: Economically empowering young women

 The unequal power dynamics based on gender have been well documented in South Africa resulting in our alarming incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. Underlying these power dynamics are structural and legal frameworks that see women at the bottom of the socio-economic pie.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), through the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS) held a BackChat with Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Under the theme: “Building State Capacity to meet the economic, social and judicial challenges facing women post-apartheid” the BackChat will focued on the public service and its relationship with women, young women in particular. The conversation, which was attended by approximately 50 students unpacked the challenges of a women-centred developmental state’ with the view to addressing issues of capacity, representatively and gender-based consciousness 

Participants raised many issues ranging from women and access to land, economic opportunity, cultural constraints for true empowerment and the lack of support from SAPS. Please find the live video streamed here-https://www.facebook.com/heaids/


The Higher Education and Training HIV/ AIDS programme (HEAIDS) welcomes ex Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana’s resignation from his position. As HEAIDS programme we strongly condemn all forms of sexual and gender based violence and believe that all citizens should be equal in front of the law.

We would like to include that when we talk about Sexual and Gender Based Violence in our sector we include any forms of violence against sexually diverse, transgender and gender diverse peoples. HEAIDS’s women’s, men and LGBTQI empowerment programs are developed to support these ends.

During the HEAIDS Sexual and Gender based violence dialogue, Ms. Criselda Kananda Dudumashe made comments that were hurtful to the transgender community. We are highly disappointed by these remarks. HEAIDS condemns these utterances and has relieved Ms. Dudumashe of her duties as HEAIDS ambassador. In this context, HEAIDS further extends sincerest apologies to everyone affected by these remarks.

HEAIDS continues to be committed to its mandate to ensure that youth and young people passing through our sector within all our 400 campuses countrywide are healthy and competent to take their rightful place in contributing to the economic growth of our country. We remain steadfast in our duty to mitigate the HIV/AIDS, TB, STI pandemic within the post-schooling sector.

For any further media enquiries, please contact:

Kind Regards,

Ms Luxolo Matomela
HEAIDS Communications Manager
Email luxolo@usaf.ac.za | Web: www.heaids.org.za
Tel: +27 12 030 2025 | Mob: +27 81 598 5001


Safety and wellness of students and youth – with a focus on GBV prevention, took centre stage at a sector meeting organised by the Higher Education and Training Health Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS). Speaking to guests and stakeholders – among them vice chancellors and principals of 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges, youth, health and development agencies, business leaders and the UN fraternity – Dr Naledi Pandor, the Minister of High Education and Training spoke of the forward-looking, prosperous and healthy “next 30 years”.

 Minister Pandor said: “Comprehensive and innovative health and wellness programmes, along with holistic development of students, are absolutely essential to the effective operation of the higher education and to the welfare of our student population.“We must ensure that we are not only throwing open the doors of learning to admit more students. Our task is to see that the vast majority walk out of the same doors with a qualification in hand.”

The Minister’s sense of urgency to invest in young people’s tertiary education and see more of them complete the studies they begin is underscored by several trends:

  • About a half of students who enter a tertiary institution drop out early and fail to obtain a qualification – entailing a major waste of finance and talent.
  • The latest national unemployment statistics indicate that not even one in two people aged 15-34 are employed – while often being the ones responsible for sustaining several dependants.
  • HIV, TB, STIs, gender-based violence, alcohol and drugs, unplanned pregnancy and mental health issues affect the student’s ability to sustain their studies and complete tertiary education.
  • The onset of the 4th industrial revolution where technology and artificial intelligence both help and hinder the human role in the workplace requires the future-proofing of education so it can equip students with skills that will be useful in the next 3-4 decades.

Reflecting on August being Women’s Month in South Africa, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women said: “It is imperative that we organise a cohesive, inter-departmental solution to the scourge of GBV in our society and institutions of higher learning. We cannot continue in a world where the power dynamics are structured to leave the girl child and non-gender conforming individuals at the bottom of the socio-economic pile. Now is the time for a pragmatic solution to be implemented with immediate effect.”

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the CEO of HEAIDS said the centre was established in the late 1990s, when HIV looked invincible. “With concerted focus, endurance, resources and collaborations, the infections stabilised and we’re beginning to see reduced infection rates in HIV as well as TB and improved health outcomes. Now we must have an equal commitment and plan to meet other social and developmental challenges faced by students and our sector.” A clear priority is to prevent rape and address other forms of gender-based violence towards students and staff.

Dr Ahluwalia provided an update on the comprehensive GBV policy framework for the higher education and training sector, saying that it would be issued imminently for public comment. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has mandated HEAIDS as the implementing agency of the framework, once finalised. In preparation, they had already initiated planning, resourcing and aligning with other parties involved in responses to GBV. “That is partly what our meeting is about – streamlining the work of several government departments, experts, funding streams, implementing organisations and the tertiary community itself in order to ensure we have integrated programmes for healthy, educated and successful youth – because tomorrow matters today,” concluded Dr Ahluwalia.


As you are aware, the issue of gender-based violence (GBV) has come to the forefront at our universities and colleges, with our students highlighting the need for the sector to actively address gender based and sexual violence that has long plagued our campuses and our country at large and it became evident that policy and programming was an imperative course of action.

As such, the Department of Higher Education and Training mandated HEAIDS to implement a GBV programme in the HE sector university and college campuses to mitigate the problem. The goal being to develop a comprehensive prevention programme and model that addresses sexual and gender-based violence at our institutions, with the specific emphasis on policy interventions to reduce gender-based violence, to improve victim/survivor support services and to challenge gender-based violence more broadly in society. It is against this backdrop that HEAIDS has been leading several key activities in collaboration with key role players across the country, inclusive of Government, UN based organisations, civil society, institutional and student leadership and donor partners.

In addition to developing the GBV Policy and Strategy Framework through an extensive consultative process with all universities and TVET colleges and relevant partners and stakeholders, various ministerial dialogues have been facilitated across the sector to date. These dialogues are critical in enabling the leadership to hear the voices of the students and to also understand the stark realities on the ground.

The Ministry of Higher Education, under the leadership of Deputy Minister Buti Manamela will host a series of GBV Imbizos, leading up to the launch of the GBV Policy Framework, with HEAIDS. These events will enable us to keep the spotlight on the issue and to mobilise the sector around the implementation of the Framework.

On behalf of the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, HEAIDS takes pleasure in inviting you to its second Gender Based Violence Provincial Imbizo. The details are as follows:

DATE:        7th August 2018

TIME:         12h00 to 15h00

VENUE:     Tshwane North College, Mamelodi Campus, Gauteng, 19403 Serapeng Road,

Mamelodi East, Pretoria.


The Higher Education and Training HIV/ AIDS programme (HEAIDS) has received several media enquiries regarding the incident at Cubana (Fourways) involving Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana. HEAIDS is an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training that is undertaken by Universities South Africa in cooperation with the South African College Principals Organisation (SACPO).

Thus, for all media enquiries, please contact the Communications Team of the Department of Higher Education and Training, via Busiswa Gqangeni on 079 547 5299. HEAIDS through its mission, vision and policy strongly condemns Sexual and Gender Based Violence and stays committed to its mandate of empowering women in South Africa. 


As South Africa marks National Women’s Day on 9 August, Mamelodi’s Tshwane North College held an Imbizo dedicated to strengthening the response to rape and gender-based violence (GBV) that happen at education institutions and in communities where students and staff come from.

 The Deputy Minister of Higher Education began the Imbizo by asking for a moment of silence for Khensani Maseko. “This terrible tragedy outlines that this is now a crisis, a two-fold crisis. On the one hand, the persistence of unrelenting incidents of GBV on our campuses and on the other, a dire need for psycho-social support for survivors of GBV. Mental illness should be tackled in the same breath as GBV, as one causes the other.”

Today’s Imbizo is part of a national movement to amplify conversations about the safety of students in institutions of higher learning. It is driven by the Higher Education and Training Health Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS), the implementing agency under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges which are part of the public post-schooling sector, as well as UN Women and other partners.

During his engagement with students and staff at the college, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, said: “GBV is a violation of dignity and rights which compromises women’s health, wellbeing and educational performance and outcomes.

 “Imbizos like the one we are having today provide the platform for sharing information and interrogating complex issues that will allow us to understand the root cause of gender-based and sexual violence. We are determined to learn from these discussions in order for us to bring about a sector-wide strategy which we can align with national legislation, both within and outside of the higher education and training system,” said the Deputy Minister.

 He pointed out that imminently, a comprehensive GBV policy framework will be issued for public comment, after a year of research and consultations with the education institutions, experts working in the field and other relevant parties. He explained that when finalised, HEAIDS will act as the implementing agency of the Department, leading the roll-out of the policy framework across the sector.

 “South African women have played an integral and rich role in the positive transformation in the country. We celebrate the National Women’s Day. But, as too many chilling headlines and personal testimonies remind us – we have a long way to go to ensure a truly transformed South Africa where women and men stand equal, and where boys grow up basing their behaviour towards girls, sisters, mothers and other women on positive role models. The Policy Framework was developed on this premise.

“We call on every student and staff member within our sector to be part of this real transformation. We can do that by respecting girls’ and women’s dignity and rights every single day,” says Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HEAIDS.

He further stated that Higher Education Policy Framework will have a comprehensive implementation plan that will include:

  • Peer-to-peer education and campus-based activations and dialogues to serve both for preventative and emergency-management purposes.
  • National sector wide Prevention Campaign, focussing on education and awareness
  • Psychosocial and medical support for survivors.
  • In- and out-of-classroom training as well as capacity development for staff.
  • A safety audit across campuses to inform further measures to improve safety.

 Ms Mulalo Mutheiwana, a Masters student from Vaal University of Technology, said to her peers and leaders attending the Imbizo: “I am not victim – I am a survivor of my own story. Attempting suicide is not weak, Khensani was not weak, she was drained by the world not doing anything about abuse.”

Initiating discussions like these and involving people who are at risk or have survived a traumatic experience are precursors to further steps to protect students and staff, improve access to services and care and intensify meaningful legal responses to these violations.



Programme Coordinator for the Universities, Veronica Mgwathi, held a peer Education Training Workshop at Mangosuthu University of Technology with staff and students.

The main aim of the training was to capacitate students and staff in order to support health promotion, social justice, good citizenship, leadership and sharing of health information, values and behaviors through peer to peer education. The training also informed participants about HEAIDS programmes and the supportive role they can play.

Presented in an interactive manner to get the students to fully participate; the training also embodied HEAIDS perspective that the Higher Education & Training sector can transform South Africa. This perspective suggests that Peer to Peer engagements within campuses is an effective method as these institutions are often seen as role models within their communities.


HEAIDS in cooperation with the Department of Higher Education and Training and Coastal College in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal today hosted an Imbizo dedicated to igniting a response to rape and gender-based violence (GBV) that happens at provincial campuses and within the community where students and staff come from.

The tertiary sector considers rape and GBV as a major and cross-cutting social, health and academic challenge. Latest reports indicate that about a tenth of the incidents of rape in the country happen within the higher education and training sector.

Taking a stance against GBV, sexual harassment and rape in particular is a priority for the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre (HEAIDS) and the 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges which are part of the public post schooling sector. This initiative is supported by a variety of partners and stakeholders including UN Women and the Department of Women.

During his engagement with students and staff at the Coastal College, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, said:  

“Violations cause physical and psychological harms for the survivor. Apart from the trauma to the individual, this affects educational outcomes – effectively eroding the investments made into educating young South Africans and equipping them with skills to enter the job market.”

The Deputy Minister repeated the call to action he issued during the Department’s budget vote in May: “We have to confront the reality of violence against women on campuses. Violence against women is a problem that must be rooted out within higher education and training. It is also a societal problem that calls all of us to act together. Our quest is to make our campuses safer.”

HEAIDS is leading the sector’s activities to shine a spotlight on GBV. Initiating discussion and involving people who are at risk or have survived a traumatic experience are precursors to further steps to protect students and staff, improve access to services and care and mount meaningful legal responses to these violations. .

“We are here to spur conversations about a hard topic that has for too long been kept behind closed doors. It is positive that reports of incidents of GBV are happening more frequently even if in the short-term it gives the impression that violence is on the rise. It signifies that tolerance is declining and that time is running out for perpetrators. They will be seen and they will have to account for their unacceptable behaviour,” said Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the CEO of HEAIDS.

‘’As HEAIDS on behalf of Department of Higher Education and Training, we are developing a comprehensive integrated GBV program within the higher education sector.  The program will comprise of peer-to-peer education, dialogues, psychosocial support for survivors, in and out of classroom training as well as capacity development for staff. We are also aiming to establish a safety audit on all campuses to ensure effective preventative measures are implemented’’-added Dr Ahluwalia.

Njabulo Mncwabe a MA student at University of KwaZulu-Natal spoke for many of her peers. “We have had enough of people who should be leaders and people in authority turning a blind eye to the violation of our human rights and safety. We want our campuses to be places of learning, friendship, innovation and progress – not grievous harm to our bodies and spirits.

“I am making it my mission to have the means to protect myself and to know where the nearest point of help is should I need it. I want every one of my girlfriends to do the same – and we want our boyfriends and lecturers to help us in this. I am thankful for today’s Imbizo, it tells us that the college and government are taking our problem seriously and helping us do something about it.”

Coastal College was recognised for other ways in which it is advancing gender equality, including its new facility that manufactures low-cost quality sanitary towels for girls in the community. Lack of access to hygienic and affordable pads to wear during menstrual periods exposes girls from under-resourced communities to health risks and for many, it means monthly absences from school. This project will help girls attend school without interruption, giving them a sense of dignity, protecting their health and enabling them to achieve better school outcomes. Deputy Minister Manamela will be visiting the college’s Hammarsdale campus tomorrow, 6 June 2018, to learn more about the production of low-cost sanitary towels.


In a series of workshops, the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre trained 425 Life Orientation (LO) lecturers from TVET colleges across the country in the area of HIV Prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights and strengthened assessments with regards to these issues. Of the 425 trained LO lecturers, 150 were identified as outstanding champions in the field of teaching Life Orientation, as they successfully incorporated their training into their classrooms and shared their knowledge with other TVET college lecturers from their institutions.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, addressed these lecturers on Thursday, 19 July 2018, at the Southern Sun Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport and awarded them with certificates for their outstanding achievements. In his address to the Life Orientation lecturers the Deputy Minister highlighted the fact that “skills development remains the core mandate of the Department of Higher Education and Training”. Responding to the problem that the subjects of Life Orientation is often undervalued, he also reassured  the lecturers that government takes the subject of Life Orientation very seriously and that it is important that “our learners also realise that Life Orientation is as important as maths and other subjects”.

Aruna Singh, DHET Chief Director: Programmes and Qualifications, said that attending the HEAIDS workshops was a phenomenal experience: “When our lecturers left the training sessions, they were equipped to step into the classrooms the very next day and be comfortable to teach on issues of sexual health. The results were beyond of what I had expected. I would like to commend that”.

Two colleges were asked to share their lessons learned as part of the HEAIDS TVET Life Orientation programme. Lecturers from Capricorn TVET college in Limpopo highlighted that “without HEAIDS the Life Orientation curriculum” would be incomplete, while lecturers from Majuba College did not shy away from coming up with their own “Life Orientation rap” to teach their students about the principles of safer sex.

HEAIDS Technical Advisor in the CEO’s Office Ms Managa Pillay closed the event by highlighting the  commitment of the Life Orientation lecturers to the capacity building process and thanked the group for their hard work, commitment and passion: “Life Orientation Lecturers are notoriously undervalued in their institutions – the subject is not seen as a priority, which is very unfortunate given that  Life Orientation lecturers empower their students to take care of their physical and mental well-being and support them with important life skills and tools to become agents of change within their communities.”

She further expressed a commitment to continuing this work to ensure that Life Orientation is afforded the value that it deserves.


To access the HEAIDS Conference Programme click HERE