South Africa’s Women of the Year

8 August 2008

South Africa’s premier accolade for achievement by women has gone to Janet Buckland, who was named Shoprite Checkers/ SABC2 Woman of the Year 2008 at a dazzling event in celebration of the women of South Africa in Cape Town on 31 July.

Seven category winners and an overall winner were announced at the gala event, which will be broadcast by SABC 2 at 8pm on National Women’s Day, 9 August 2008.

The winners in the seven categories – business, education, health, science and technology, social welfare, sport, and arts, culture and communications – each received R10 000 in prize money, while Buckland took home R30 000 as the overall winner.

Arts, culture & communications (and overall winner)

Janet Buckland – known simply as “Mama J” to the communities she works with in the Eastern Cape – has been responsible for the initiation and creation of a significant number of successful arts and culture projects in the province.

She combined her understanding of the value of the arts, particularly theatre, in the lives of all South Africans with her skills as a performer, director, fundraiser and administrator to direct these projects over a number of years.

The most notably project is Ubom! the Eastern Cape Drama Company, which was the first full-time professional drama company in the province. It brings theatre presentations and drama workshops to thousands of people in schools and communities all over the Eastern Cape.

Since its inception almost six years ago, Ubom! has reached audiences totalling more than 178 000. It also has provided 36 full-time contracts for actors to work in the Eastern Cape. Buckland raises the funds to sustain it herself.

Business: Thabang Molefi

Thabang Molefi is a qualified ethno-medical practitioner and beauty therapist who, with the little savings she had at the time, opened the first health spa in Soweto six years ago.

Today, the Roots Healthcare Centre business has branches in three South African provinces and a neighbouring country and boasts a multi-million rand turnover.

Molefi’s pioneering centres introduced affordable health care to black communities through the use of the different but effective technique of iridology for diagnosis and herbs as prescribed medicines.

The centres also offered beauty and detoxing services for the first time in these areas, all contributing to a “feel good about yourself” lifestyle in previously disadvantaged communities.

Besides the seven other centres she established in Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and the Free State, Molefi set up a mobile unit to visit communities in remote rural areas in the rest of the country.

She has created 41 jobs for women in these communities, developed some managerial positions to run the centres, and outsourced services such as accounting, laundry and security to local businesses.

Molefi’s next aim is to branch out into franchising in order to create more business and job opportunities.

Education: Roslyn Narain-Mohan

Roslyn Narain-Mohan, a teacher at the New West Secondary School in Durban, has become the “Mother Theresa” of her community, launching campaign after campaign to tackle virtually every form of social injustice affecting them.

Narain-Mohan’s community is a microcosm of a broader community affected by HIV/Aids, crime, racial conflict, poverty, age and individual suffering.

Deciding not to sit back, Narain-Mohan began using her skills as an educator to teach her community how to engage and seek answers for their social problems.

In her daily teaching and actions she encourages her pupils to seek solutions – which, for her, mean not just reaching out, but also identifying and understanding people’s real needs and the kind of support that would help people to help themselves in the long term.

Health: Lorna Barbara Jacklin

Professor Lorna Barbara Jacklin, principal consultant paediatrician at Wits University’s faculty of health sciences, has dedicated her life to improving the lives of children with mental health problems caused by physical disabilities or abuse.

Untreated, mental health problems rob such children of a fair chance in life, translating into developmental and social problems as they grow into anti-social adults incapable of functioning independently.

Consulting to the pediatric department of the Johannesburg Hospital, Jacklin acts as an “ombudsman” for such children, who do not fit into mainline education and struggle to fulfil their potential as they tend to be misdiagnosed and mistreated.

Science and technology: Claire Penn

Professor Claire Penn was awarded South Africa’s Order of Mapungubwe in 2007 for her contribution to the field of speech and language pathology – especially in linguistics, sign language, child language and aphasia – and for groundbreaking research into the complexities of human communication.

Penn sees communication – a capacity which is complex, vulnerable and both a science and an art – as being at the heart of the human endeavour. For her, it can forge and sustain relationships but can equally be the main reason for breakdowns in understanding between individuals and communities.

Social welfare: Veni Naidu

Ten years ago, Dr Veni Naidu gave up a high-powered and lucrative career in the corporate world in order to make a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s development.

Naidu has received a doctorate for her groundbreaking research into the impact of HIV/Aids on businesses, families and communities.

While most studies at the time focused on the medical aspects of HIV/Aids, Naidu investigated the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, completing the first study in South Africa on the impact HIV/Aids on income-earning urban households.

Other researchers have expanded on her work, and some of her micro-economic studies have been used in macro-economic modelling.

Sport: Sherylle Calder

Professor Sherylle Calder is a visual performance skills coach and world authority on the subject who has received back-to-back World Cup winners’ medals after training both the triumphant Springboks in 2007 and the English World Cup winners in 2003.

With a PhD degree in visual performance training, Calder is a pioneer in this field and has created an exciting new sport science that is sought after by international coaches looking to bring an extra dimension to their game.

The new science is based on the thinking that nothing happens in sport until the eye tells the body what to do. Calder first developed the technique she calls “Eyethink” in order to improve her own hockey game.

She represented South Africa in hockey between 1982 and 1996, gaining 50 international field hockey caps and 15 indoor caps. In 1995 she was selected to a team comprising the top 11 players in a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.

SAinfo reporter

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