As the country is moving towards the end of Women’s month commemoration, let us look at the journey travelled by Dr Marizvikuru Manjoro, a Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Rural Development at the University of Venda (UNIVEN).
Dr Manjoro explains her journey worth travelling…
From a tender age when I started my primary education, I have been good in science subjects, especially Mathematics. This was during the era when majority of community members where I come from were against educating a girl child and vehemently discouraged my family to invest in my education. Against all these odds, my parents were serious in my education though with some misgivings on whether they were taking the right decision. They were torn in between on one hand supporting the community norms for them to be socially correct and on the other hand fulfilling the desire of their daughter. Then came the other challenge from the myopic perception of some section of the community who believed that Mathematics and Science subjects were meant for only boys in school. Against all odds, I took up these subjects and excelled because I was good at them, and I enjoyed them. Alas! my performance in science all the way through to acquiring a doctoral degree in Animal Science paid dividends and gave my family a great relief. Linking up with colleagues that are like-minded, and a supportive family gave me courage and confidence to pursue my passion of Mathematics and Science, to which to date I like very much and teach the science of Research Methods to Honours students and train Postgraduate students on the science of data analysis and data management. Parents/guardians, I besiege you to support the girl child to take up Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and help her achieve her dreams, no matter the deterrence and challenges. To the girl child, despite the discouragements or detours in life, raise your confidence and do not give up on your dream to pursue the career path that you desire. One day you will be a shining star and save the nation and world at large.
Dr Manjoro explained that she acquired a doctoral degree from the University of Fort Hare which was made possible through the Free-Standing PhD Bursary from the Department of Science and Innovation/ National Research Foundation (DSI/NRF) Africa Scholarship award. She mentioned that she was also fortunate to be a pioneer Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the University of Venda (UNIVEN) in October 2010. The two- and half-year fellowship was sponsored by DSI/NRF and UNIVEN, during which I received several of the UNIVEN Vice-Chancellor’s research awards. Thereafter, I took up another Postdoctoral Fellowship with North-West University, in the Indigenous Knowledge System Centre, where I received an award as the best Postdoctoral Fellow in 2013. In 2015, I re-joined UNIVEN, now as a Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Rural Development (IRD). Some of my great achievements at UNIVEN include passionately coordinating the Postgraduate programme in IRD, serving the Research Advisory Forum and the Social Sciences Research Ethics committee as a member and Deputy Chairperson, respectively. Thanks to UNIVEN, my coaches and mentors who created an enabling environment for me to continue navigating my academic journey. This enables me to remain focused towards my goals and vision and subsequently empowered me to remain relevant, becoming instrumental and, have been rewarded by receiving recognition as an active researcher by my institution (Vice-Chancellor’s research awards), NRF rating as a promising young researcher and nomination into various esteemed professional associations. Some examples of the recognition are being invited to membership of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), where I actively participate in making the voice of the youth scientists heard through science advocacy, policy influence and as science ambassador, and have served as an Executive Committee member in 2019/2020 and currently as the co-Chair of SAYAS. I am active in the Research Ethics and Integrity Community of Practice for the Northern region including Botswana where we have recently developed guidelines for research ethics and integrity for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. As a Women in Science in the Developing World member, I have participated in programmes encouraging women and girls to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and contributed three book chapters. Worth of mentioning is my participation in the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Pathways Into Science: Twinkl Celebrates International Day of Women and Girls) to encourage women and girls to take up STEM subjects and career pathways. As a Fellow of the esteemed Africa Science Leadership Programme, I periodically participate in the mentorship working group for graduates and early career researchers. I have also gladly served the science community as a reviewer of many journals that include Veterinary World, Welwitschia International Journal of Agricultural Science, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, South African Journal of Animal Science (SAJAS) and Environmental Sustainability Indicators. I also serve as a sub editor of the SAJAS, external examiner and, reviewer and moderator of NRF applications. To date I have published at over 60 peer-reviewed Journal articles, three papers in conference proceedings and two book chapters culminating to a Google H-index of 18 and Scopus h-index 11. I have successfully supervised/co-supervised 11 PhD candidates, 9 research Master’s and 18 Honours students, in addition to mentoring a Postdoctoral Fellow. I also gratefully mentor students, peers and female academics and in particular when I served as an oversight member of the NRF-funded project on Customised intervention Grant for mentorship of University Female staff members where I mentored about 15 female researchers at UNIVEN in 2019; where I derived the joy of seeing them sailing through. I also had a privilege to attract research grants, mentor students and Postdoctoral fellows to attract bursaries, lead and participate in projects that are impacting lives of the rural communities through improved village chicken production, water saving mechanisms and enhanced food security. Fruitful collaborations nationally, regionally and at the global space have enriched my academic journey.
Taking a pause and reflecting on my journey, what made me who I am and reach this far, is the privilege of supportive supervisors and mentors, strong social support structure, linking up with like-minded colleagues, passionate and diligence. Early career guidance is crucial in assisting learners to gather courage and choose appropriate career pathways that they are passionate for and follow their dreams successfully which I strongly believe should be given a priority in the society. The privilege of mentors who identified the potential in me and helped me to explore my full potential is incredible. I keep tapping into my mentors and at the same time mentor others without any reservation.
Yes, the journey is not easy but pressing forward, remaining focused and having both social and academic supportive structures is key to attain the aimed goals and join the stream of impactful human beings in the society. Women are faced with many responsibilities, but tips for it to be manageable are working effectively on a task, courage to enquire with others if not sure of what needs to be executed, multi-tasking, teaming up with like-minded colleagues, in any case, collective action is exciting and implausible; to which I owe my personal success. Women should also take time to rest, refresh and re-energise for the next tasks. Above all “Me Time” is pertinent which if you do not create it for yourself, nobody will. As such, let us join hands in helping the girl child becoming confident in the Science field, excelling in what we do and be each each’s role models, mentors and coaches for a better us, a better nation and a better world. Together we can and are capable to use Science to make a difference in humanity.
Department of Marketing, Branding & Communication
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710
Date: 31 August 2021