The Department of Science and Technology rolled out the red carpet for women achievers in science, technology and innovation at a gala dinner in Limpopo on Thursday evening, 23 August.


The South African Women in Science Awards (SAWISA) was held under the theme, "100 years of Mama Albertina Sisulu: Women united in moving South Africa forward", emphasising Sisulu's great courage as a unifying leader during the apartheid era. In 1956, Sisulu was instrumental in leading about 20 000 women from across South Africa to march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the law requiring black women to carry passes.


Addressing the event, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said, "It is fitting that this year's SAWiSA is dedicated to remembering the sacrifices that women such as Mama Albertina Sisulu made to building a democratic society that respects and celebrates the crucial role that women play in all fields of human endeavour."


The Minister said that, in line with this year's theme, and with permission from the Sisulu family, the Department had renamed the "DST Fellowship Awards" the "DST-Albertina Sisulu Awards". 


"The personal prizes have been increased by R15 000 per award, and Tata Africa has also increased the value of the Tata Scholarships by R15 000 per award (from R60 000 to R75 000)," added the Minister.


"In further homage to Mama Sisulu, the DST will establish an Albertina Sisulu SARChI Chair in Nursing Care.  It should be remembered that Mama Sisulu trained as a nurse and encouraged graduates to use their learning to improve people's lives. The chair will deepen research in nursing policy and/or practice and contribute to the advancement of health care and the betterment of society.  The research chair will be awarded to a university that is linked to a relevant health facility.  In the coming months we will initiate the process of making the chair active and it will be subject to the authoritative peer-review process run by the National Research Foundation," she said. 


The Minister urged South Africans to recognise the hard work and dedication of the SAWiSA participants, as they were making a great contribution towards knowledge production in the country.


Dr Seipati Makunyane, who delivered the keynote address, described the awards as not only prestigious, but inspiring. "This occasion challenges us to reflect on the current situation in the world of science, research and technology in our country, and the strides made in bridging the gaps that exist," she said.


Dr Makunyane also paid tribute to Mama Sisulu, whom she described as a hardworking woman who pursued integrity and excellence, "the very attributes we are celebrating and rewarding tonight."


"These attributes are fundamental as we grapple to address the challenge of the critical mass of academics, mostly in the lecturer and senior lecturer bands, who are not taking up research opportunities. Many of this "silent majority" are black women.  We have to identify enablers to increase the number and diversity of researchers at institutional level, including women in science," said Dr Makunyane.


The 2018 Awards saw the introduction of an astronomy category for Distinguished Young Women Scientists, which was won by Prof. Susan Ilani Loubser, an associate professor at the Centre for Space Research and incumbent of the Research Chair of Physics at North-West University.


Last month the Department launched the 64-antenna MeerKAT, a milestone for science and astronomy in our country. To celebrate this achievement, a "Commemorative MeerKAT Award" was made to another outstanding woman astronomer, Prof. Renée Kraan-Korteweg, who holds the Research Chair of Astronomy at the University of Cape Town. She also the Chair of the South African Astronomy Advisory Council and Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union.


The full list of winners is as follows:


Distinguished Women Scientists

Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences

1.         Dr Mathabatha Evodia Setati – Winner

2.         Prof. Karen Joan Esler – 1st runner-up

3.         Prof. Soraya Bardien – 2nd runner-up


Distinguished Women Scientists

Humanities and Social Science

4.         Prof. Maureen Nokuthula Sibiya – Winner

5.         Prof. Hasina Banu Ebrahim – 1st runner-up

6.         Prof. Marlize Lombard – 2nd runner-up


Distinguished Young Women Scientists

Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences

7.         Prof. Adrienne Edkins – Winner

8.         Dr Irene Barnes – 1st runner-up

9.         Dr Soraya Phumzile Malinga – 2nd runner up


Distinguished Young Women Scientists

Humanities and Social Sciences

10.       Prof. Nicolene Barkhuizen – Winner

11.       Prof. Pragashnie Govender – 1st runner-up

12.       Prof. Benita Olivier – 2nd runner-up


Distinguished Young Women Scientists


13.       Prof. Susan Ilani Loubser – Winner


Commemorative MeerKAT Award

14.       Prof. Renée Kraan-Korteweg-Winner


Distinguished Young Women Scientists

Research and Innovation

15.       Prof. Keolebogile Shirley Motaung – Winner

16.       Dr Lucia Steenkamp – Winner


DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships (Doctoral)

Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences

17.       Ms Isa Lambrechts

18.       Ms Tiisetso Mpai

19.       Ms Danielle Roodt


DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships (Doctoral)

Humanities and Social Sciences

20.       Ms Zakeera Docrat


DST-Albertina Sisulu Fellowships (Master's)

Natural (Physical and Life) and Engineering Sciences

21.       Ms Innocensia Mokgohlwe Mangoato

22.       Ms Kelly Schwarz

23.       Ms Kgothatso Tlhapi


Tata Scholarships (Doctoral)

24.       Ms Edith Phalane

25.       Ms Mapula Razwinani

26.       Ms Sinenhlanhla Precious Sikhosana


Tata Scholarships (Master's)

27.       Ms Olayile Ejekwu

28.       Ms Kahiomba Sonia Kiangala

29.       Ms Sikelelwa Ndiweni


Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.