South African actress Regina Nesengani, who is famous for playing Chief Azwindini’s mother, Vho-Masindi Mukwevho on the SABC 2 soapie Muvhango, has been conferred with a doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) from Unisa.
Nesengani’s doctoral dissertation, which she wrote in TshiVenda, is on gender-based violence (GBV).
In her thesis, she looked at women abuse through dialogue in drama books written by male writers.
She said as a Venda woman herself, there were many cultural practices which added to GBV against women.
Nesengani highlighted some of these: “GBV is an ongoing thing. Many women are raped and killed almost everyday. I believe we are not solving this if we don’t start dealing with this in our homes.
“In the Venda culture, forced marriages and polygamy is rife. Women are forced to marry a man when they reach a suitable age and then they are forgotten about and treated as if they are nothing when a new wife is introduced.”
Nesengani said culture should not be an excuse to abuse women. She further encouraged women to speak out about issues within their culture which cause them harm.
“As a woman we often hide things to protect our abuser or their surname, but we will not win if we continue to remain silent about cultural practices which harm women,” she said.
Nesengani, a former teacher from Tshianzwane village in Limpopo, started teaching in 1975. The 65-year-old granny of 12 completed her masters degree while she worked as a primary school teacher. She has been in the acting industry for more than 30 years.
She said that she chose to do her thesis in TshiVenda because she wanted to emphasise to people the importance of language in South Africa.
“I want my children and my grandchild to embrace the Venda language. We will not be a forgotten culture.”
Regina, whose role on Muvhango was her first gig on television, juggled her masters studies with her TV duties.
She said she got the inspiration to study toward a PhD after listening to an interview of an old lady on SAFM who had just graduated with a doctorate degree.