Professor Himla Soodyall
Director, Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit
National Health Laboratory Service
As I read through this collection of young women’s stories, marveling at how their journeys through life have brought them to their current destinations, I am struck by a common theme that emerges through them. It’s a theme linked with sacrifice and passion to overcome challenges and a compelling drive to achieve one’s best, but at the same time to give back to society.
We celebrate the achievement of unique women, who, despite a myriad of challenges and adversity, have become successful icons in different disciplines of science in South Africa. Many of them have during their own careers travelled abroad and experienced different cultures and educational opportunities with the lure of establishing themselves abroad, but they came back to the country. Their presence has established a footprint that serves to inspire and mentor other young people from their own experiences.
Young people today are faced with many societal challenges. When at a crossroad in one’s journey, which road does one choose? If posed with a decision of choosing between job opportunities on the one hand and postgraduate studies on the other hand, which route does one take? How does one deliver on the expectations of the work-life equilibrium?
There are also messages about the silent voices of women who prefer to be invisible as their tumultuous lives encapsulate them in these stories. Some of this was captured in the imagery of life in rural South Africa; the challenges that still exist in schools spanning almost a generation of time; the use of the visual arts in exploring psychological enquiry; and the plight of married woman in the workplace.
Despite all of this, the stories of the women in this book are fueled with positive messages to inspire young scholars to claim their place in the global arena. Central to all of the successes of the women featured in this book, is their commitment to work hard, to excel in what they do, to be passionate about their work, to love, to be respectful, and to have a balanced life.
I don’t know the origin of this quote but would like to conclude with this message: “To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care”.