Dear Fellow Science Enthusiasts
I am very much honoured to be appointed by the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) to be their Student Ambassador for Lesotho.
My name is Palesa Florence Lefojane. I was born and raised in Quthing, a small district in the southern part of Lesotho. Being raised by a strong mother who instilled in me from a tender age the essentiality of high self-esteem and hard work, I grew up to be a hard working girl who believed in herself and consequently into a young woman who knew and always believed that if Africa is to change, it starts with oneself. Being groomed by a religious family caused me to develop a spirit of compassion which I will always cherish because I realised that more than we need our expertise or professionalism as African scientists, Africa needs our compassion and commitment to use whatever resources we have to help make the continent a better home for everyone.
I am currently doing my fourth and final year of Bachelor of Soil Science in Agriculture in the National University of Lesotho. My dissertation is about an assessment of soil erodibility under different land use types. To a wise man, soil is treasure. Therefore it is worth noting that proper soil management is a prerequisite to an improvement in the productivity of land. The soil is an entire ecosystem with a functional diversity ensuring that the soil’s resilience to external forces is optimised. The soil has a certain level of buffer capacity which makes it be able to replenish lost nutrients. However, reckless cropping practices in Africa have over the years caused the soil to lose important nutrients and therefore to go below the boundary of sustainability, causing a decline or no agricultural production whatsoever. This is one of the reasons why, despite positive developments, Africa is faced with poverty today. The soil needs to be taken care of to achieve environmental and nutritional sustainability.
I believe that one of the many underlying causes of a lack of development in the agricultural sector and science careers at large emanates from a cultural believe that many of the countries have about women being in management. Historically women have been occupying subordinate positions across African societies and, very unfortunately, the same cultural belief still prevails in some parts of Africa today. Statistics show that in science – not to discount other fields of employment – women are being underpaid, mainly because they do not have the confidence to take leading roles.
Social science research on confidence suggests that women tend to apply only for jobs for which they feel they have a fighting chance, either because the qualifications listed in the job advertisement match theirs or because the institution is one that they think they are good enough to join, while men on the other hand tend to apply without heed for such concerns. However, I think it is essential that the recruiters note that female applicants, being more selective in their attempts, are likely to be well suited to the position that they have applied for. It should be of a major concern as of how much of the innovative ideas and research work Africa is losing by not having the full participation of women in scientific research. If the objective of achieving a self-reliant and independent Africa is to be achieved, gender based barriers first have to be broken, and men can and should help pave the way.
I am grateful for SANBio because it provides a good platform where African scientists from different countries can come together and brainstorm on ideas in health, nutrition, and health-related intervention areas such as agriculture and the environment matters that concern them while sharing opportunities that they have in their respective countries. As a SANBio Student Ambassador, I wish to help create and facilitate woman empowerment forums and to assist in their network with relevant funding bodies at a national level. To work tirelessly in promoting increased women’s participation in high-level processes shaping the science agenda and science policies. This will also ensure that the unique perspectives of women scientists and women technical know-how groups is incorporated into solutions to the various challenges involving climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater management, health of the oceans, developing green industries and societies, just to mention a few important impact areas.
I also wish to pay visits to both tertiary and primary institutions of education to facilitate active participation in the climate change, nutrition and health based activities. It is my top priority to uphold the organisation’s vision for 2018 which is to become a globally recognised biosciences network for improved livelihoods in Southern Africa. I will work to my full potential to represent the organisation both at national and international level. I intend to help make SANBio be known to the public, to promote and implement its objectives in different localities through the approach of local radio stations and social media platforms. I hope to also approach rural communities through public gatherings to ensure that even the illiterate part of the population part take in the activities.
I am thrilled and honoured to work with all the members of the science and research family to raise the flag for Africa and make contributions to the already existing pool of innovative ideas.
Ms Palesa Lefojane
SANBio Student Ambassador for Lesotho