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Women Changing The World At UWC: Did You Know?

Women at the University of the Western Cape are leading the way to a better society, educating the leaders of tomorrow and conducting game-changing research into various topics from anthropology to zoology. 

“The University of the Western Cape is committed to social justice, as well as the development of a new generation of leaders who can solve the many complex challenges of our global society,” explained Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Vivienne Lawack. “To meet those challenges head-on, we need to develop the best minds and hearts we can. That’s why UWC believes strongly in gender equity, and in realising the full benefits of diversity and empowerment, and is committed to the development of all women - in all aspects.”

Statistics published by the Department of Basic Education show that nearly 50% of learners do not complete Grade 12 - mainly as a result of severe household poverty, physical or mental abuse and grade repetition. This is particularly problematic for girls, who may lack confidence or the opportunities afforded to boys. 

“When a woman is educated, she becomes empowered to change not only her own life, but also the lives of those around her: her children, her family, her friends and her community,” noted Professor Pamela Dube, DVC: Student Development and Support. “Our mission is to help young women overcome the challenges they face and find their way in the world - and leave their mark on it.”

That is particularly important when it comes to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics): female representation in the field of science and technology is low, and studies have repeatedly reported that maths and science are perceived as male domains, and scientists are seen as predominantly male. But at UWC, that stereotype is not even close to being true - and women are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“At UWC, women strive to find the balance amidst all the roles they play, and they actively contribute to research by using cutting-edge methods to investigate our universe, examining everything from the DNA in our cells to the nuclear reactions at the hearts of stars - and even understanding the importance of family,” said UWC DVC: Research and Innovation, Professor José Frantz. “Women are taking their place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and their work can change the way we view the world - and the way we interact with it as well.”

At UWC: 

  • Of the University’s 19 SARChI Chairs who help to promote research excellence and innovation, and respond to the country's social and economic challenges, 10 are women renowned both nationally and internationally for their work.
  • Of the 7 UWC students selected (in as many years) to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany to share their ideas on science and medicine with some of the finest scientists in the world, 4 have been women: solar energy nanoscientist Zebib Yunus Nuru, quantum dots researcher Sarah d’Souza, medical bioscientist Shireen Mentor and astrophysicist Nicole Thomas.
  • Several PhDs have been awarded the prestigious L'Oreal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships For Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa - Aline Simo, Sekai Tambo, Candice Rassie and Usisipho Feleni. They were honoured for their work on nanomaterials, photovoltaic cells, TB nanosensors and medication dosages for breast cancer, respectively.
  • Of the over 22 000 UWC students, over half (60%, actually) are women. And that holds true for graduates and postgrads as well.
  • Two of the Faculty Deans are women - both celebrated managers, supporters and researchers - Professor Michelle Esau (Economic and Management Sciences) and Professor Anthea Rhoda (Community and Health Sciences).
  • The University Registrar, Dr Nita Lawton-Misra, is another successful woman with a strong leadership and student support role - and also a registered psychologist and a certified life coach.
  • The Chair and Deputy-Chair of Council of UWC are both experienced women executives. Chair Yasmin Forbes has a sterling track record of more than 35 years in the information communications and technology industry, and Deputy-Chair, Cindy Hess, is a Choiseul Laureate - recognised as one of the top 100 young individuals who play a leading role in transforming Africa.

UWC women are A-rated researchers and NSTF32 Awardees, esteemed educators and entrepreneurs, artists, nurses, writers and more.

“Everyone needs a vision of what they want to be like when they grow up,” Prof Lawack said. “And that’s what UWC is all about - providing those examples for young women who want to dream big - and change the world.” 

To find out more about UWC’s amazing women academics, read our Women In Leadership digi-mag.