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"Politics of Development" Theme for Africa at ODU Today

"Politics of Development" is the theme for this year's Africa at ODU Day celebration, to be held Thursday, Oct. 16. Guest speakers will include Myrtle Witbooi and Hester Stephens, of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers' Union, and keynote speaker Welile Nhlapo, South African ambassador to the United States.

Africa at ODU Day, an annual event instituted in 2007, is an opportunity to educate students, faculty, staff and the community about current events and the cultural characteristics of the many countries on the African continent. Through student and faculty collaboration, the event highlights regional and national achievements in Africa in an effort to dispel the stereotypes that often are propagated by news headlines.

Witbooi, a longtime union activist in South Africa, overcame the oppression she experienced under the apartheid regime to form the first union for domestic workers in the mid 1980s and fought to end apartheid as a central member of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

An advocate for women's rights, human rights and social justice, she organized domestic workers in 1994 to ensure that those considered the "poorest of the poor" would be protected under the new human rights framework; worked to guarantee maternity and unemployment benefits to domestic workers in 2001; and in 2005 joined the Presidential Working Group as a gender adviser to President Thabo Mbeki.

Most recently, after five years of coordination with Old Mutual Bank, Witbooi led the movement to develop a national Domestic Workers' Fund to ensure long-term retirement, funeral planning and protective emergency resources for women employed as domestic workers throughout South Africa.

Stephens, an equally committed advocate for women's and workers' rights, joined Witbooi in advocating for domestic workers' protection under the unemployment insurance policy and the Domestic Workers' Fund. Still employed as a full-time domestic worker, Stephens has mobilized women throughout South Africa to join the national union.

Her life experiences and efforts to protect women in the informal sector of South Africa's economy have led Stephens to Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to organize women workers and build a global movement of awareness around domestic workers' rights.

Prior to his current post in the United States, Ambassador Nhlapo served as South Africa's ambassador to Ethiopia, permanent representative to the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and also served as South Africa's non-resident ambassador to Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan. In 1997 he was appointed as South Africa's special envoy on Burundi.

Born in Johannesburg, Nhlapo was active in the South African Students Organization where, together with the late Steve Biko and Tebogo Mafole, he co-authored the publication "Black Review," which covered the activities of black organizations at the time.

He went into exile to Botswana in 1974 and joined the African National Congress (ANC), after having been served with a banning order in 1973. After many years with the ANC in various capacities, Nhlapo joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and was part of the South African delegation to the U.N. General Assembly in New York when South Africa was readmitted to the world body in 1994. Most recently he served as director in the Africa division in the department of political affairs at the United Nations.

This event, coordinated by the Office of Intercultural Relations and the African Caribbean Association, is made possible through the generous support of the Correctional Management and Communications Limited, The United States and Caribbean Alliance of Criminal and Social Justice Professionals Commission, Old Dominion University College of Arts and Letters, Human Services Association/Darden College of Education, National Society of Black Engineers/Batten College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Business and Administration, the College of Health Sciences and the College of Sciences.

For more information, call the Office of Intercultural Relations at 683-4406.

Schedule of Events

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. African Country Exhibitions, North and South Mall - Webb University Center

The African and Caribbean Student Association will sponsor tables with cultural items and Africa@ODU T-shirts for sale, and faculty and student posters displaying Africa-related research projects. DJ Esperanto (Tim Nevin) will provide African music.

2 - 3:45 p.m. Student and Guest Speaker Presentations, Hampton/Newport News Room - Webb University Center

Students from the South Africa study abroad program, as well as invited guests Witbooi and Stephens, will give presentations on their experiences in South Africa.

4 - 5 p.m. Roundtable Discussion, Hampton/Newport News Room - Webb University Center

Ambassador Nhlapo will join Witbooi and Stephens to engage with students, faculty and guests in discussing the "Politics of Development" theme in a roundtable discussion.

5 - 6:30 p.m. Welcome and Keynote Address, North Cafeteria - Webb University Center

Acting President John Broderick will deliver a welcome address, followed by a reading of the original Africa at ODU Day proclamation. Ambassador Nhlapo, introduced by ODU's Ambassador-in-Residence Bismarck Myrick, will deliver a keynote address to be followed by a brief question-and-answer session.

6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Reception/Dinner, North Cafeteria - Webb University Center

The campus community is invited to join the distinguished guests for refreshments and a cultural presentation and show organized by the African Caribbean Student Association.

7:30 - 9 p.m. African Music with DJ Esperanto, North Cafeteria - Webb University Center

This article was posted on: October 16, 2008

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