From left: Professor Pragashnie Govender; Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Govender’s husband Sathiesh

Govender Shines Through Science

‘It is indeed humbling to be recognised as a contributing woman to science,’ said an elated UKZN’s School of Health Sciences’ Academic Leader of Research, Professor Pragashnie Govender, after being recognised at the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Women in Science Awards 2018 (SAWISA 2018) where she was First Runner Up in the Distinguished Young Women Category (Human and Social Sciences).

The DST SAWISA recognise and reward excellence by female scientists and researchers; profiling them as role models for younger women. The awards are made to women who are South African citizens or permanent residents.

Leveraging Science, Technology and Innovation to Enhance Inclusive Growth and Developmentwas this year’s SAWISA theme. The event was held in Polokwane as part of the Department’s celebration of Women’s Month. UKZN’s DVC for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, was also in attendance. He (Govender) was also given the opportunity to be part of a panel on SABC’s Morning Live on the day of the conference.

Upon receiving her award as runner up, Govender acknowledged Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning, Professor Verusia Chetty, for the nomination; the School’s Dean, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, for his continuous support; Dean of Research, Professor Moses Chimbari, for his endorsement; as well as her Occupational Therapy team for their continual support.

Govender is currently working on and trying to maintain a research niche in paediatric research. ‘My interest is in early detection for early intervention in children that experience adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes,’ she said.

‘This success is a symbol to young women from my community of Merebank. As a young girl, I never realised that I would be able to pursue tertiary education, and my mission is to continue to motivate young women in my community. In communities that remain riddled by social ills, we have a responsibility to ensure that those young children that emerge from these communities have an opportunity to thrive and reach their maximal potential irrespective of the adversities they face every day,’ she said.

She is grateful for the many people that have made a positive impact in her life. Raised by a single mother, Govender was groomed by her illiterate grandmother to value and appreciate the power of education. ‘Both my mom and grandmother were not afforded this privilege given the historical injustices of the past. I was able to attend university whilst working in a flea market and selling samoosas in the community. It’s this grounding that I believe keeps me motivated in this academic sector. I realise the power we have through the vehicle of research to advocate for those who are not able to do so for themselves. As the first graduate in my family, it is my history and lineage of strong women that motivates me to work hard to impact my one-year-old daughter that I hope to raise as a strong woman,’ she said.

She was also appreciative of her husband who she maintains keeps her motivated and grounded.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini