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Human rights activist Rhoda Kadalie dies after battle with cancer

Rhoda Kadalie was instrumental in establishing the pioneering Gender Equity Unit at UWC in 1993. File photo: Brenton Geach

Rhoda Kadalie was instrumental in establishing the pioneering Gender Equity Unit at UWC in 1993. File photo: Brenton Geach

Published Apr 19, 2022

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Cape Town - Tributes were paid to human rights activist Rhoda Kadalie, who died over the weekend following a battle with cancer. She was 68.

Acting mayor Zahid Badroodien described Kadalie as a selfless Capetonian who stood up for the rights of others and campaigned against apartheid. A well-known human rights champion, champion of women’s rights, academic, activist and writer, Kadalie was an example of how one person could improve the lives of many, he said.

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“Our City will be poorer without her. We express our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Ms Kadalie during this time of mourning,” Badroodien said.

UWC rector and vice-chancellor Tyrone Pretorius said: “It is with grave sadness that we have learnt of the passing of human rights activist Rhoda Kadalie at the weekend in the US, where she had been living with family. Ms Kadalie played a pivotal role in gender equality at the University of the Western Cape and beyond.

He said Kadalie was an illustrious alumna of UWC, an activist in the struggle against apartheid, and served in Nelson Mandela’s administration as a commissioner on the South African Human Rights Commission.

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“Our thoughts, prayers and condolences to the Kadalie family at this time. May her dear soul rest in peace. We have lost an influential giant who made a telling contribution.”

Kadalie was instrumental in establishing the pioneering Gender Equity Unit at UWC in 1993, after having shown a passion for promoting women’s rights, said Dr Mary Hames, her successor at the unit. Hames described Kadalie as “fierce and fearless”.

“What she has done for women, not only at the university, but countrywide, is immeasurable,” Hames said.

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Hames said Kadalie established the unit at a time when “gender issues were not regarded as important.”

Her work saw gender and sexual harassment policies developed at the university, as well as equal pay. She was at the forefront of successfully campaigning for maternity and paternity benefits for academics, equal housing benefits, and the promotion of women in the academic hierarchy.

Kadalie, who did her arts degree at UWC, fought for women to be promoted to professorships and for female representation in leadership bodies.

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“There was a time when there were hardly any non-governmental organisations in South Africa that didn’t have a former student of Rhoda’s fighting for women’s rights and feminism,” Hames said.

Cape Argus

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