15 August 2022 

Written by Jamela Hoveni - Senior Lecturer: School of Investment & Banking

Yes, I know the title has been taken and story has been told, but it works for me!

Situated in Washington DC, American University (AU) is a leading university, which focuses on inclusivity and sustainability.

In 2021, American University selected me to participate as a global scholar in their Program in Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE). In the capacity, I was also appointed Adjunct Professor and Research Fellow. The program runs for a year and includes a visit to Washington DC from August to December of the year. The program involved working with American University faculty members to develop a gender and feminist economics course at a South African university. The fellowship incorporates an aspect of research and teaching.

I had applied – unsuccessfully so – to many universities abroad. Just when hope and self-belief faded, the AU opportunity came along. What made it more thrilling was that I hadn’t applied for the position. My sister and confidant said, “You see how much people value you?” For once I didn’t mind the I-told-you-so. 😊

When we go through rough patches and events knock our confidence, we forget that we have value and that people value us. My sister’s comment reminded me of what Tabitha Sindani said in her TED Talk:

Our true value is intrinsic, and it does not depend on the job that you occupy or your position in life.

After reflecting on this and thinking back on my own path and challenges as a woman, I realised that, unfortunately, the identity of many women depends so much on what they do and the roles that they occupy. As important as these roles are (especially in the contribution to family, community and society), there is a risk that they lose themselves.  Tabitha Sindani reminds women (me…all) that our true value and true worth lies within a combination of our talents and experience, aspects which are intrinsic because no one can take them away from us. Poverty can’t take it away. Crime can’t take it away. Tragedy can’t take it away. Failure can’t take it away. It’s ours to explore and use to better ourselves and our communities.

My participation in the program started in January 2022. In two weeks’ time, I’m headed to Washington DC to fulfil the last three-month part of the program. I am excited to contribute my talents and experience to an institution that embraces diversity and sustainability. I am also excited to embark on this part of my life’s journey – bolstered with the realisation that, wherever I go, I will always be valuable, worthy and important. With such a start, 2022 promised to be an exciting year full of interesting opportunities and stimulating engagements – a good year.