Science and technology to develop rural women and end poverty

Over the last 10 years, beginning in 2003 to be exact, the Department has held the awards during Women's month to coincide with the nation-wide celebration of women and their achievements. WISA winners are profiled as role models for younger scientists and researchers. Women have continued to be a majority of the overall undergraduate and lower postgraduate (honours level) enrolments and graduations over the past ten years.

However, at Master's level, women are underrepresented in the total enrolments and graduations. Overall, women are a clear minority at the upper postgraduate levels (Master's and PhD levels) in terms of both enrolments and graduations. Despite the low enrolments at upper postgraduate levels, I am encouraged that women constituted approximately 50% of students supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) at both Master's and PhD levels over the last three years (2009/10 to 2011/12).

The timing of WISA in August positions it to build on the momentum established by the National Science Week in positively influencing the perceptions, choices and attitudes of young people towards SET.

This year, the theme for the Women in Science Awards is "Using Science and Technology to Develop Rural Women and End Poverty". This theme is in line with the 2012 United Nations Theme for women, namely "Empower rural women and end hunger and poverty", and also takes cognisance of Parliament's theme for 2012, namely "Knowledge Economy and Development Opportunities". The 2012 Women in Science Awards also coincide with our celebration of the South African-German Year of Science (YoS) and as such, this edition of Awards is supported by our German counterparts.

The Categories
The awards are made in three categories, namely Distinguished Women in Science, Distinguished Young Women in Science and DST Fellowships. The Distinguished Women in Science and Distinguished Young Women in Science awards will be made in three areas, that is Social Sciences and Humanities, Physical and Engineering Sciences and in areas of research (open) that contribute to the development of rural women in line with this year's theme.

Distinguished Women in Science
These awards go to women scientists and researchers who have made an outstanding scientific contribution to advancing science and building the knowledge base in their respective disciplines. The criteria used for this category include consideration of the nominee's teaching and research experience, research and innovation outputs, national and international eminence, and experience in supervision and mentorship aimed at achieving equity and redress. Distinguished Women in Science awards are made in each of the following areas:

  • Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Physical and Engineering Sciences

Distinguished Young Women in Science
These awards go to young women scientists and researchers who have made an outstanding contribution to advancing science and building the knowledge base in their respective disciplines. The criteria used for this category are the same as those used for the Distinguished Women Scientists category, except that the nominees must be under the age of 40 years. Distinguished Young Women in Science awards are made in each of the following areas:

  • Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Physical and Engineering Sciences

Awards for the Development of Rural Women
These awards will be made to women scientists or researchers for the contribution and empowerment of rural women through the efforts and/or outputs of their research activities (in any field). The criteria for these awards are the impact of the research on the social and economic development and empowerment of rural women; recent research outputs and their environmental impact; the role and participation of rural women communities in research or exploitability of the research outputs to the development of rural women (for example the possibility of using the research results to develop or improve products, processes and services).

Awards are made in each of the following categories:

  • Established Researcher
  • Emerging Researcher

DST Fellowships
These awards are made to six Master's and six doctoral students who are currently involved in fulltime study or research leading to a masters or doctoral degree, respectively. These awards recognise outstanding ability and potential in research, enhance the women's research experience and output and encourage more young women to complete research degrees.

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Naledi Pandor
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