SpeakOUT UP, the CSA&G, and the Transformation Office are important structures at UP, where students can report issues that are addressed in the Anti-Discrimination Policy such as sexual harassment and gender based violence. PDBY interviewed Duke Rasebopye, who has worked in all three structures, about his experiences and journey, as well as his transition from being a UP student to a staff member. 

How was the transition from being a student at UP to being a staff member?

When I arrived at the university in my first year, I got involved at the Centre for the Study of AIDS (currently the CSA&G) as a student volunteer. I chose to volunteer as a counsellor throughout my undergrad and into my honours year when I was elected to the 2015 SRC. After my SRC term, and my involvement in the leadership of Fees Must Fall, I was offered a part-time job at the CSA&G to help with the establishment of a student advocacy programme, which led to my being offered the opportunity to manage the Just Leaders programme. [I currently work in the Transformation Office, where I am in charge of Training and Advocacy programs, as well as the coordination of #SpeakOutUP activities.]

What would you say are the major differences between staff and student community?

The main difference is that students are best placed to mould the university into the kind of institution that is inclusive of all. For staff, the wheels of change tend to move slower due to the demands of their work and the responsibilities they carry. Students have been at the forefront of fast tracking change within the university. Beyond their academic and career aspirations, they have time to immerse themselves in passion projects that have the potential to transform the university in significant ways.

What was your biggest project that you think changed the UP community within the Transformation Office, CSA&G and SpeakOUT UP?

My activism at the university from 2015 to 2017 has probably been the period that has been most fulfilling as a student. It brought about noteworthy milestones in the review of several institutional policies and the drafting of the current Anti-Discrimination Policy. I am so privileged to be in a position where I see all those campaigns come full circle through the Anti-Discrimination Policy and to be involved in its implementation.

What type of social issues are addressed by your office?

[My] current work in the Transformation Office and with #SpeakOutUP is focused on anti-discrimination and addressing sexual and gender-based violence, here at the university and beyond. I am also passionate about supporting young men in navigating their masculinity and their role in society.

These problems exist because we had not created the necessary programmes, platforms, and interventions necessary to allow us the opportunity to reimagine how we navigate our relationships and be more conscious of how we interact with others. We also need to reject all binaries and allow ourselves to explore our diversity, lest we waterdown our equity and inclusion aspirations.

How did you become involved in this type of work?

I think as a Humanities graduate, especially one with friends immersed in politics, it’s inevitable that I would find myself in advocacy spaces and in the pursuit of social justice. My time at the CSA&G, both as a student and staff member, has also been helpful in my development. 

If you were to give a student one piece of advice, what would it be?

Get involved in social justice advocacy programmes, and find a community where your passions can find expression with like-minded individuals. Do all this while giving your academics the attention it deserves.

Students can reach out to SpeakOUT UP via Instagram at @speakout_up or via email @speakout.up.ac.za 

Photo: Jaime Lamb

Amukelani Makamu 

Originally posted on the PDBY website: Committed to transformation: In conversation with Duke Rasebopye