School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

UKZN’s oldest graduate’s tale of grace and great triumph

Dr Elizabeth Martiny graduated with her PhD in Religion and Theology from UKZN.
Dr Elizabeth Martiny graduated with her PhD in Religion and Theology from UKZN.

Dr Elizabeth Martiny graduated with a PhD in Religion and Theology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Aged 71 years old, she is the oldest graduate from the University. She is ecstatic to get her PhD and still feels young at heart. However, her life’s journey was fraught with difficulty at the onset when she contracted polio as a child. This did not stand in the way of realising her dreams.

This reality positioned her inner vigour to seek spiritual meaning for life experiences, not just for herself but also for others. Martiny started her professional journey as a teacher in elementary school and special education.  This kick started her journey into therapy. Specialising in the depeth psychology of Carl Jung. Today she runs her own private practice as aJungian analyst.

One of the reasons she chose to do her PhD was to reflect on the various aspects of her life journey and to explore them through research. Focusing on the religious and psychological aspects led her to review her experiences as a women with a physical disability and how this reality impacted other dimensions of her life.

In her research she investigated “the images of God and the disability experiences of physically challenged women from the perspectives of theology and analytical psychology.”

She was adamant that these themes were relevant to other women with physical disability who were on a spiritual journey. She acknowledged the need to challenge misleading ideas and the stigma around disability in society, with a special focus on faith communities.

She was adamant that these themes were relevant to other women with physical disability who were on a spiritual journey. She acknowledged the need to challenge misleading ideas and the stigma around disability in society, with a special focus on faith communities.

She hopes that her research will be instrumental in the deconstruction of negative stereotypical attitudes and behaviours toward people with disabilities.

Ultimately empowering women with disabilities to speak in their own voice and act as agents of constructive change.

This process, she admits ‘has been a test of perseverance and patience. And most importantly it was meaningful learning about myself and the necessity of giving voice to those who have not had an opportunity to be heard.’

The support she received from a number of individuals, professionals, family, friends and the University has been etched in her heart.

‘Dreams can emerge at all stages of life and this dream has become a reality,’ said Martiny.

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