Professor Maheshvari Naidu, a senior academic of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal ays that women and men are both under an incredible amount of pressure to succeed and fit into the mould of the fourth industrial age and highly techno-savvy society. Picture: Lee Rondganger

Durban - Professor Maheshvari Naidu has racked up various accolades over the span of her academic career, but ask her what she pins her success down to and the answer may surprise.

"My parents," she says. "I am utterly indebted to them. I am fortunate to have had parents who transcended their time and their cultural background."

Naidu is a Professor of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). As a feminist anthropologist with an Honours as well as Masters degree cum laude and a doctorate that explored African Feminism/s, she has travelled the world presenting papers and lectures in her field and in 2013 was one of the National Winners of the Department of Science and Technology Women in Science Award for research excellence.

Professor Naidu has been in the Top 30 Researcher rankings of the University of KwaZulu-Natal thrice in the last four years and has been widely published in the fields of anthropology of religion, feminist religion, and anthropology of tourism, heritage, identity and migrant studies.

Professor Maheshvari Naidu, a senior academic of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the challenges facing young women in society. Video: Lee Rondganger

In addition, the 49-year-old, who grew up in Durban's historic Clairwood community, also works with several NGOs.

When we move to the topic of feminism, which she has spent her career exploring, her answers are forthright.

She says that women and men are both under an incredible amount of pressure to succeed and fit into the mould of the fourth industrial age and highly techno-savvy society.

She points to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate change activist who featured on the front cover of Time Magazine and was nominated for a peace prize, and Malala Yousafzai, the young Afghani girl who was awarded the peace prize after being shot in the face by the Taliban for going to school, as true examples of feminism.

"The climate change activist, I don't think she set out to be that. It was just something that sat on her heart and pained her. So she just acted. It's the same for the young woman who was shot because she stood up for education," Professor Naidu says.

She says that success comes when one finds their "inner-selves".

"To put it in simple terms, what is it that makes it difficult to go to sleep at night? What it is it that moves you? If you know that, the rest is easy. Not that it will be less challenging but it will be a life worth living. And not half a life."

Professor Naidu said that for society and women, in particular, it is about finding that "guiding light" that prevents one from being "ripped and fragmented in different directions".

"If you can find that without looking outside without looking at other people, you are halfway there. Surrounding yourself with good people helps. But being surrounded by yourself is important. Being completely un-alone when you are alone, that has always worked for me."

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