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Meyersfeld urges for imagination as an agent of change

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Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, a human rights lawyer and the recipient of the Europcar Jewish Women in Leadership Award, used the accolade to call for social change through imaginative thinking.
by MIRAH LANGER | Sep 06, 2018

“Creativity and imagination… have been a hallmark of our community,” the Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand Law School told the crowd at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards dinner on Sunday evening.

“There is no shortage of grief in our country. There is no shortage of pain and thinking about children at schools who fall into pit latrines and die. There is no shortage of understanding that we have some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, that women are abused in their homes, that we have the greatest gap between rich and poor, not only geographically but also in our income, in the world,” said Meyersfeld.

Yet, she implored, “We also have the greatest power of imagination; we also have the greatest power of empathy, and ability to actualise change.”

If society held onto the “power of creation, empathy, and actualisation… we can become that change”, she said. “It is a great honour to be able to stand amongst people that I know are agents of change.”

Earlier, in a video compilation of all the nominees in her category, Meyersfeld described how she pursued social justice following the principle that it is “through service that we lead”.

During her acceptance speech, Meyersfeld paid tribute to her fellow nominees, saying that they were an inspiration for the next generation.

“I have a four-year-old daughter, and if she grows up to be like anything like any of the other nominees, I will know that my mothering and parenting would have been successful.”

In presenting the award, Europcar Chief Commercial Officer in South Africa, Martin Lydall, noted the “exceptional achievements” of the candidates.

Gender bias remained a “blight” on society, he said, and many of the nominees were examples of women who had fought against this in their respective industries.

“There are a number of examples of our candidates this year and in preceding years, who are pioneers in their field, and open doors for those to follow.”

Many of the nominees were “unsung heroines, who often did not realise themselves, the impact that they had in society”.

Celebrating the selection of Meyersfeld as winner, Lydall said she was “as impressive as she is inspiring”.

“We have no doubt that she will be an outstanding role model,” he said.

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