Twenty four of South Africa’s best women scientists were recognised with awards, fellowships and scholarships at the annual South African Women in Science Awards last week at a gala dinner hosted by the Department of Science and Technology.

The SA Women in Science Awards honour excellence shown by females in the field and aims to courage young girls to follow in the paths paved by these extraordinary women.

Professors Lindiwe Zungu and Maureen Coetzee walked away with the highest honour of the evening after being awarded the Distinguished Women Scientists – Humanities and Social Sciences and Distinguished Women Scientists – Life Sciences awards respectively.

“We have made progress,” minister of science and technology said about the state of women scientists in South Africa. “Yet there is so much more that we still have to do. We have a gender balance in favour of women at university, but a research balance in favour of men.”

Professor Zungu was honoured for her studies on health and safety in high-risk workplaces, while Professor Coetzee was awarded for her research into Malaria.

“I didn’t get where I am all by myself. I have been working in this field for something like 40 years and I have had some excellent mentors in my young days,” Professor Coetzee told SABC news.

“I went into health science because it was influenced by my background from home, my mother was a nurse and I was always inspired by the stories,” said Professor Zungu in her interview with the public broadcaster. “Health is important, it’s imperative for anyone, it’s even worse when you are at the workplace.”

Awards, scholarships and fellowships were also presented in the following categories:

Distinguished Young Women Scientists – Humanities and Social Sciences

Doctor Gina Ziervogel

Distinguished Young Women Scientists – Life Sciences

Professor Marla Trindade

TATA Scholarships (masters)

  • Thulile Khanyile
  • Shruti Lall

TATA Scholarships (doctoral)

  • Ntsoaki Mosina
  • Maralize Everts
  • Khanyisile Kgoadi

Department of Science and Technology Fellowships (masters)

  • Siphesihle Nxele
  • Aretha Maharela

Department of Science and Technology Fellowships (doctoral)

  • Muneebah Adams
  • Kenda Knowles
  • Charissa Naidoo