Department of Science and Technology

Thursday, 17 August 2016


Hilton Hotel, Sandton


The South African Women in Science Awards (WISA) were founded in 2003 as an intervention to empower women in the sciences.


We have made progress in empowerment and transformation.


In the DST there are many initiatives to promote race and gender equity. The three flagships are the Thuthuka programme, the Centres of Excellence (CoE) initiative, and the South African Research Chairs initiative (SARCHi).


The Thuthuka programme provides funding to emerging researchers to work on PhDs, post doctorals, and NRF rating. It has equity targets of 80% black and 60% female grant holders.


The 16 Centres of Excellence, only one of which is directed by a woman, are located in mainly the research-intensive universities and I am considering a programme in future targeted at historically disadvantaged universities.


The SARCHi program is a truly beneficial public partnership between government, universities and industry. Government puts up the initial stake, the universities then invest in additional resources, and industry takes advantage of the new knowledge created.


The total cumulative public investment in SARCHi between 2006 and 2014 amounted to R1.5 billion and SARCHi research professors were able to leverage an additional R3 billion from foreign sources, government departments, and industry funders.


With that sort of investment South Africa has the potential to turn African talent into new technologies.


With that sort of investment South Africa has the potential to turn African science into life-saving and enhancing innovation.


And now nearly half of SARCHi professors are women.


Yet there is much more that we still have to do. We have to decolonise our higher education curriculum so that women feel free and safe in laboratories and work spaces. We have to fund our higher education students so that all who are qualified are able to study and achieve. We have to increase the number of PhD graduates five-fold over the next 10 years to build the learning economy that we need to solve our economic and environmental challenges. We can only do that if we boost the participation of women in all science disciplines.


WISA has become an important feature of our celebration of Women’s month. It builds on the fanfare and the excitement generated by another significant event in the scientific calendar of our country, namely, the National Science Week (NSW), held in the first week of August. It builds a momentum that grows stronger each year.


I congratulate all the nominees and the awardees.


The finalists and winners will be invited to participate in science awareness campaigns led by the Department to serve as role models for other women, particularly young girls. 


Once more, welcome to you all and do enjoy this evening.


I thank you.