High-level awards season for women: dare to be inspired even during these trying times 

FOLLOWING a string of gender-based violent incidents and femicides in South Africa this week, meet 3 unstoppable women whose love for their work not only inspire many discouraged women out there, but their strong commitment to serving others will no doubt help them regain hope for a better future during these trying times

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Executive director of UN Women Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addressing delegates during the organization's recent gathering
Executive director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, is the recipient of the 2019 In Good Company Experience honourary award
  • UN’s Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to be honoured during the In Good Company Experience 2019

A CHAMPION of social justice and women’s rights, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has worked tirelessly over the years to combat critical issues like violence against women, childhood marriages and gender pay inequality. As the executive director of United Nations Women, her dedication in advancing the rights of women and girls has landed her a number of international accolades, notably the 2019 Cannes LionHeart, which is presented to individuals who use heir position of power to make a positive difference in the lives of those around them.

This week the South African based diversity and inclusion initiative, In Good Company, has announced that the former South African deputy president will be the recipient of an honorary award during the “In Good Company Experience” business summit later this month. Themed “Building the Africa of Tomorrow” the annual event serves as a platform created to provide business and career networking opportunities for women to share experiences, opportunities and ideas. It also recognizes women who have contributed towards the betterment of the continent as a whole, as observed through Mlambo-Ngcuka’s work with Unstereotype Alliance, an initiative focused on eradicating harmful gender-based stereotypes in the media.

Guests listening to a key note address during the In Good Company Experience 2019 media launch
Guests attending the In Good Company Experience 2019 media launch

“We hold Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka in high regard for the notable work she has done and continues to do. She has devoted her career to issues of human rights, equality and social justice in this continent and beyond. We are especially honoured that she is our Honorary this year,” said In Good Company founder Jabulile Gwala at the recently held media briefing session in Steyn City. Presented in association with the Steyn City’s 7% Tribe, the 2019 #IGCExperience is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at the Steyn City Estates, northern Johannesburg. Following a successful inaugural year, the 2019 programme will feature a series of high-level panel discussions, master classes and a business speed dating session. There’ll also be food, fashion and beauty market stalls, as well as breathtaking live performances – all curated by women. For more info on the summit, visit www.ingoodco.co.za.

  • Namibian LGBTIQ+ activist, Linda RM Baumann, set to receive the 2019 Feather Awards’ African Feather of the Year accolade

Linda RM Baumann is an icon within the LGBTIQ+ community in her native Namibia, a country where homosexuality is outlawed. In 2010, Baumann founded the Out-Right Namibia (ORN) alongside fellow activists advocating for lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people. As the executive director of ORN, she has made tremendous strides in building a culture of leadership development within movement, thus shining light on LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the workplace. 

Her activism around grave human rights violations against LGBTIQ+ people has secured her a spot in the forthcoming 2019 Feather Awards on October 17, 2019. As an award ceremony sorely dedicated to casting the spotlight on the LGBTIQ+ activists and organisations for the crucial work they do in their respective communities, this year the Feathers will honour Baumann with the prestigious African of the Year accolade. The award also recognizes Baumann’s years of service as a strategic coordinator for Namibia’s Diverse Women Association (NDWA), which sees her risk her own life fighting tirelessly to ensure that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are treated with dignity.

Watch: Human rights defender Linda RM Baumann speak about the plight of LGBTIQ+ communities across Africa

As the chairperson of Women’s Solidarity Namibia, she focuses on highlighting the increasing patterns of sexual violence towards lesbians and trans people “who are being raped to ‘cure’ them from being who they are,” she said in a previous speech. During her impassioned speech during the 2010 OutRight Action International Advocacy Week at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Baumann highlighted the ongoing plight of LGBTIQ+ communities across Africa. “We are people who live in fear, people who are denounced from our families, who have school fees and support withdrawn, people who cannot freely express themselves and feel good about themselves, all due to the prejudice, stigma and discrimination that we face because of the people we love or the way we express our gender,” she said before posing a series of questions to audiences, stating: “What harm do we cause to our immediate families, communities and our nations at-large? What harm am I causing to you all sitting here that could defer the developments of our national states?”

  • UCT Professor Tania Douglas makes it into the 2019 Women In Science Awards list – Research & Innovation award
University of Cape Town Proffessor Tania Douglas smiling during a photo session
UCT Prof. Tania Douglas

From her induction into the University of Cape Town’s College of Fellows in December 2018, to her recent South African Women in Science Award 2019 (SAWiSA) recognition, Professor Tania Douglas is truly in a league of her own. As the director of UCT’s Medical Imaging Research Unit in the Division of Biomedical Engineering, you can trust the feisty South African scientist to be at the top of her game when it comes to spearheading complex medical research work that speaks to the ideals of the catch-all phrase, “African solutions for African problems”. It is her tireless efforts in this field that led to her inclusion on the 4th edition of 30 Quartz Africa Innovators for 2018. 

Just over a week ago, the Department of Science and Technology bestowed her with a special award, a SAWiSA for “distinguished woman scientist in research and innovation”. Douglas also serves as the National Research Foundation/Department of Science and Technology (NRF/DST) South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) chairperson in biomedical engineering and innovation. She’s also very involved in the African Biomedical Engineering Mobility project, which funds postgraduate education in the field across Africa.

In 2016, she established an MPhil in health innovation, a master’s programme focusing on special groups – i.e. disabled individuals – that are often excluded from the design of health innovations and health technologies, “even though they may be intended recipients of such innovations,” she said of the course. Douglas completed her electrical and electronic engineering in 1992 at UCT. She went to complete her masterʼs and PhD degrees in biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University in the United States in 1995 and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland in 1999, respectively. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation in Tokyo prior to resuming her duties as a lecturer at UCT in 2000. She completed an executive MBA at UCT in 2012. 

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