Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, says the South African Women in Science (SAWISA) Awards 2023 are premium awards to celebrate women who are contributing immensely to the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) sector.
“The industrial revolutions are epochs in our social and economic history that are based on disruptions in innovations and technological developments, leading to advanced forms of production and service delivery,” Nzimande said.
Speaking at the SAWISA Awards 2023 event held in Durban on Friday, Nzimande said patriarchal attitudes, systematic barriers and certain practices and norms have defined women out of the research, scientific and technological developments that are engines of the industrial revolutions.
“We therefore have seen successive industrial revolutions having effects of disrupting or changing the lives of societies and economies,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande said with each industrial revolution, whole industries were adjusted or disrupted, new ones were created, and existing occupations and job families went through fundamental changes, with far reaching consequences for societies.
“Our (2019) White Paper on STI engages with the pivotal changes brought by the modern technology in promoting inclusivity, transformation, the development of human capabilities, knowledge expansion and innovation in ensuring that the benefits of the digital economy are enjoyed by all South Africans.
“The measures aimed at greater gender inclusion in our recently approved STI Decadal Plan (2022-2032), our ten-year plan, include the STI Transformation Framework, and the STI Gender Strategy that is aligned to the government-wide gender responsive planning and budgeting framework,” the Minister said.
This year’s glittering awards were attended by among others, members of Parliament, students and international guests.
SAWISA is an annual countrywide event profiling distinguished women researchers and scientists, as well as younger women who are emerging as excellent researchers.
The awards also provide registered Masters and PhD students with fellowships to support their studies, in areas ranging from indigenous knowledge systems to astronomy.
Harnessing technological change and innovation
University of Witwatersrand Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini, congratulated the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation for introducing the awards 20 years ago.
“Harnessing technological change and innovation, starts with ensuring access in the remote areas of our country, it’s about ensuring affordability by the most vulnerable, providing quality education with digital access in all our schools especially the township and rural schools, addressing inherent biases and social-cultural norms that are a hindrances to women and girls’ access,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini said the gender digital divide that still exists, especially for black rural women, has to be addressed.
“Women are under-represented in the ICT jobs, men are four times more likely than women to be ICT specialists,” she said.
Running since 2003, SAWISA also awards registered Masters and PhD students.
The theme for this year’s awards was, “Harnessing technological change and innovation to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls”.
In honour of the late climate-change activist and science champion, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) called the fellowships the DSI-Ndoni Mcunu Fellowships.
Mcunu was the founder of Black Women in Science (BWIS).
The late Mcunu facilitated developmental training for more than 400 postgraduate students in business and entrepreneurship skills, research skills, scientific writing, project leadership, science communication and research career preparation.
During her life-time, Mcunu achieved numerous accolades, including being named a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow, receiving an honorary awards at the KZN Young Achievers Awards in the Science Research and Entrepreneurship catergory and winning the Gagasi FM Shero Award in the Science and Technology catergory.
In the catergory of DSI-Ndoni Mcunu Fellowships: Masters’ Awards, the finalists were Nyleti Precious Mabaso from Stellenbosch University, Modjadi Rebecca Letsoalo from the University of Venda and Gizelle Roque van Niekerk from the University of Pretoria.
In the catergory of DSI-Ndoni Mcunu Fellowships: Doctoral Awards, the finalists were Munira Hoosain, University of Cape Town, Alletta Nortjie, Stellenbosch University, Boitumelo Makgabutlane, University of the Witwatersrand, Thendo Gertie Makhado, University of Venda, Bambesiwe Mbesi May, University of South Africa, Carlo Dodd, Nelson Mandela University, Lusani Mamushiane, University of Cape Town, Bettie Sebati, University of Johannesburg and Nicole Richardson from the University of Cape Town.
Other categories include awards for Distinguished Young Women Researchers and Distinguished Woman Researchers. – SAnews.gov.za