The South African Women in Science (SAWISA) Awards 2023 is an esteemed event that honors women who have made influential contributions to the Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) sector in South Africa. The theme for this year’s ceremony centers on “Harnessing technological change and innovation to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls,” stemming from the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).
The Gender Gap in STI
Throughout history, industrial revolutions have brought about disruptive innovations and technological advancements that have developed production and service delivery. Unfortunately, women have been excluded from this progress due to systematic barriers and patriarchal attitudes. The industrial revolutions’ effects have been far-reaching, resulting in significant changes in occupations and job families.
Opportunities in the Digital Era
The digital era presents an opportunity to address the gender gap in the STI sector. Finalists and winners of the SAWISA Awards 2023 have conducted groundbreaking research in various fields, offering solutions to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. Their research includes areas such as safety and violence prevention, gender equality, health issues, laser applications in cancer therapy, sustainable building materials, cost-effective implementation of 5G networks, machine learning in astronomy, and youth entrepreneurship.
Steps Taken by the South African Government
The South African government has taken steps to increase inclusivity and transformation in the STI sector. The 2019 White Paper on STI and the STI Decadal Plan 2022-2032 both emphasize the importance of greater gender inclusion in STI. The STI Transformation Framework and the STI Gender Strategy align with the government-wide gender-responsive planning and budgeting framework, which includes the youth and people with disabilities.
Promoting Transdisciplinary Research
The STI Decadal Plan highlights the interdependence and complementarity between scientific and technological innovation and research in the social sciences and humanities. SAWISA Awards are given for both Natural and Engineering Sciences and Human and Social Sciences. The plan also supports the transdisciplinary nature of knowledge creation and suggests having an award for transdisciplinary research in the future.
Combatting Gender-Based Violence
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a critical social issue affecting women, and the Transforming MEN’talities program aims to address it. This initiative aims to tackle gender inequalities and transform gender norms by changing how men and boys relate to women and girls. It encourages them to unlearn regressive habits and embrace emancipatory values, norms, roles, and practices in their relationships with women and girls.
Recognizing Exceptional Women in Science
The SAWISA Awards 2023 is a platform to recognize the exceptional achievements of women researchers and scientists, inspiring more women to participate in the STI sector and contribute to bridging the gender gap. Harnessing technological advancements and innovations to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls is crucial for South Africa and beyond.