Women in science honoured

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Johannesburg - As part of the annual celebrations for Women’s Month this August, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has honoured the country’s female scientists for their innovation in combating violence against women in society.

The South African Women in Science Awards (WISA), which is part of government’s efforts to recognise and create incentives for women scientists and researchers in the country and to profile successful women scientists, has become an integral event since 2003.

The objective is to create enough role models for young women and girls.

The theme of this year’s awards - which were held on Friday evening - was “The Role of Science and Research against Violence towards Women.”

This is rooted in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women's 2013 theme: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, a topic of high interest in South Africa, given the high levels of violence against girls and women in society.

In a statement before the wards -- the department said science has much to contribute to the eradication of such violence, through innovation that assists in preventing human trafficking, empowerment and protection of women and girls, and the response of the criminal justice system in this regard, among others.

Speaking at the awards, guest speaker Professor Cheryl Potgieter from the University of KwaZulu-Natal said primary prevention lies at the heart of finding long lasting solutions to gender based violence.

She added that the primary prevention strategies should focus more on education and community engagement measures to help prevent violence against women and children even before it occurs.

Regarding women in science, the professor said although the number of women - and particularly black women academics - was growing in South Africa they still mostly occupied junior positions. However, she is convinced the situation would change in the next decade.

Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom hoped that the winners will encourage other women to persevere in overcoming gender discrimination in order to contribute to research and knowledge generation.

“I believe that women play a crucial role in our societies and in the world of research,” said Hanekom, adding that South Africa had world-class women scientists.

The awards were made in the life sciences and humanities categories and include distinguished women scientists and distinguished young women in science.

Among the winners was Proffesor Nareadi Phasha who walked away with the established researcher award for her cross-national study covering South Africa and Kenya which addresses “Gender-based violence in schools for learners with disabilities”.

The study aimed to tease out school processes and practices underlying gender-based violence as it pertains to learners with disabilities and analyse the contribution of this form of violence on the marginalisation and disempowerment of the group in question.

The findings, Phasha says, can be used to develop ways in which schools can contribute towards reversing the damage created by an experience of gender-based violence amongst learners with special needs and in promoting safe learning environments.

The night also saw a student’s category to ten students who were awarded fellowships and scholarships towards their research work. The students were from various institutions in the country.

Among the students was Philile Mlotshwa from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who effused to let her humbling background determine her future.

Mlotshwa is presently enrolled for her Master of Science (MSc) degree in Statistics with a research topic titled ‘Competing Risks and Multi-state Survival Analysis with an Application to HIV” and hopes her findings might help rural South African communities in addressing the relation between HIV and TB.  

UCT’s Vuyolwethu Siyo received the Tata Scholarship Doctoral while Nomakhwezi Mvumvu, also from UCT received Tata Scholarship Masters.

The awards where attended by ambassadors from China, Brazil, Switzerland, Kenya and Mozambique, among others. - SAnews.gov.za



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