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Writing the book Holding the knife's edge: Journeys of black female scientists

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

In 2019, we got together to write a book that highlights the life stories of some of South Africa’s award-winning and pioneering Black women in Science.  The book draws its inspiration from a Sesotho/Tswana proverb: "Mmago ngwana o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng" (A mother holds the knife’s edge to protect her offspring). We follow their journey from childhood through schooling, and then climbing the professional ladder to the upper echelons of various organizations through innovation, academic excellence, social intelligence, authentic leadership and tenacity. In some cases, humble rural beginnings did not limit their intellectual growth, but rather stimulated creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Their stories tell of a deep hunger for knowledge, a determination and commitment to succeed, and a work ethic that ensured that success. 

In Africa, we believe that it takes a village to raise a child and these women acknowledge the contribution of their respective ‘villages’ in the successes they achieved. Whether it be a parent, teacher or spouse, the unwavering support and belief in their abilities helped these women dream of bigger things. This sense of ubuntu is something they all want to pass to the next generation of African scientists through their various social and academic outreach initiatives.

The women in this book are daughters, wives, mothers, supervisors and mentors, and have seamlessly managed to balance all these roles while establishing successful careers in science. In telling their stories we hope to give the child in rural Qunu or Mafikeng a mentor, lighthouse and cheerleader. We hope to show the young girls and boys in township schools that it is cool to be good in maths and science. They can dream of becoming an astrophysicist or a neurosurgeon by being true to themselves, and they could one day be just as successful as the women we profiled. 

We hope that the readers of this book get inspired to chase their dreams and draw strength from these women to overcome obstacles they may encounter along the way.

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