Maths and science have been singled out in South Africa’s National Development Plan, or Vision 2030, as subjects that will take the country forward.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is playing its part in making sure that women excelling in these subjects and careers relating to them are highlighted and celebrated. Female scientist and researchers were honoured at the 2015 South African Women in Science Awards (WISA).
Under the theme this year, “Science for a sustainable future”, the awards were handed out on 13 August, in the middle of Women’s Month, in Sandton, Johannesburg.
“The Women in Science Awards, which take place every year in Women’s Month, recognise women who have excelled in research and profile them as role models for younger women,” explained Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
“Apart from rewarding outstanding research work in areas aligned to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals, the 2015 WISA also recognised excellence in early career research by awarding scholarships and fellowships to masters and doctoral students.”
The women’s admirable achievements provided inspiration and encouragement to many more young women to pursue science-related careers, she added.
“We are very excited as a nation to witness women performing so well and displaying a high degree of excellence in the fields of science and technology as well as research,” President Jacob Zuma said.
“It is therefore my pleasure to congratulate, on behalf of government and all the people of South Africa, the winners of the 2015 Women in Science Awards which were held this past week to recognise women who have made a remarkable contribution in this very important industry for our country’s development.”
The government, he added, would continue to support initiatives led by women to ensure total empowerment and emancipation of women.
The winners of the 2015 Women in Science Awards are:
Professor Maureen Coetzee – winner of the Distinguished Woman Researcher in Life Sciences Award was recognised for her outstanding work in the field of medical entomology. Her research interests include insecticide resistance in the major African malaria vector mosquitoes, biodiversity within the genus Anopheles, novel methods for controlling malaria vectors, and vector-parasite interactions.
Professor Marla Trindade – winner of the Distinguished Young Woman Researcher in Life Sciences Award is the director of the Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics, an internationally recognised research centre in the department of biotechnology at the University of Western Cape. It comprises a team of over 45 researchers and staff and is leading the country in the area of mining microbial genomes for novel biotechnologically relevant enzymes and products. Trindade is also the vice-president of the South African Society for Microbiology.
Professor Lindiwe Zungu – winner of the Distinguished Woman Researcher in Humanities and Sciences Award, Zungu is a full professor of health studies at the University of South Africa. Her research outputs have contributed to workers’ health and safety, for instance, guidelines for the redesign of safety clothing for women in mining. Her guidelines have been accepted as a national standard for the mining sector, and she continues to receive invitations to make presentations on the guidelines to stakeholders such as the Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee and the Chamber of Mines.
Dr Gina Ziervogel – winner of the Distinguished Young Woman Researcher in Humanities and Sciences Award, Ziervogel has contributed to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 that ensures environmental sustainability. She has situated environmental concerns within the broader development paradigm, helping to address MDG 1 that involves eradicating poverty and hunger as well. Her work has focused on adaptation to the impacts of climate change, from household level up to village and municipal level. Ziervogel is a senior lecturer in the department of environmental and geographical science and a research fellow in the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
According to The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, the 15-year effort to achieve the eight aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration in 2000 was largely successful across the globe, while acknowledging shortfalls that remain. The data and analysis presented in the report show that with targeted interventions, sound strategies, adequate resources and political will, even the poorest can make progress.
In 2000, eight millennium goals were highlighted to be reached by 2015, these were:
- Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty
- Achieving universal primary education
- Promoting gender equality and empowering women
- Reducing child mortality
- Improving maternal health
- Combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases
- Ensuring environmental sustainability
- Developing a global partnership for development
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: “Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation. The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs.”