Durban – From high school teacher, school counsellor and education specialist to lay minister, Dr Zama Dlamini has worn many caps but it was her most recent cap and gown worn when she graduated with a PhD in gender and religion from University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) that has brought her a lot of joy.
The university said Dlamini made a shift from media and cultural studies to gender and religion and completed her PhD in three years despite many family responsibilities.
Dlamini, who works as a researcher for the Ujamaa Centre, is also the programme co-ordinator for Public Theology at UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics.
The university said her research-work focuses on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the faith context, which is highly topical.
Dlamini will present some of her research at the Global Network for Public Theology in Brazil in October, said UKZN.
Explaining why she changed her field of study, Dlamini said she was inspired by the brokenness she encountered in ministry, where married Christian women experienced difficulties within their marriages.
Dlamini said they struggled with trauma, depression, stress and anxiety and often ended up leaving the church without any support.
“The pain of witnessing African women’s experiences in marriage influenced by African culture and Christianity was too much to bear. Patriarchy has always been the template used to oppress, harm, and perpetuate human indignity. The lack of programmes and resources promoting relational well-being within the churches had not helped abate the challenges,” she said.
Dlamini said she pursued her PhD because of a deep desire to unmask GBV in Christian marriages.
According to the university, she sought to understand the precarious nature of the “unholy trinity” (gender, religion and culture) in the stories of women who suffer abuse and how toxic biblical teachings/culture normalise and sustain the oppression of women.
“I wanted to expose the lived experiences of GBV survivors, where women’s bodies are vulnerable to abuse in intimate relationships in which they are abused by their spouses in the context of heterosexual Christian marriages,” she said.
The university said Dlamini’s research is about GBV in faith spaces, with the aim of unmasking how GBV is a reality not just in the secular spaces, but also how Christian married women survive domestic violence and GBV in their homes.
Dr Zama Dlamini graduated with a PhD in gender and religion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s spring graduation ceremonies held at the Westville campus. Picture: Supplied