Tue Jul 01 06:40:00 UTC 2008


The finalists of the 2008 Shoprite Checkers / SABC 2 Woman of the Year Award were announced in Johannesburg today (Tuesday, 1 July 2008). These 22 outstanding achievers selected from over a thousand nominations countrywide, will now compete for the prestigious 2008 Shoprite Checkers / SABC 2 Woman of the Year title. 

The finalists include world-renowned sportswomen and administrators, internationally recognised researchers, academics, public health workers and business entrepreneurs who have achieved not only in their own right but who have also made a difference to the broader South African society. 

The finalists are: 


Ms Andile Gaelesiwe is a sexual rights campaigner, an accomplished artist and radio and television presenter who has been awarded the prestigious Clinton Democracy Fellowship for youth leadership strengthening democracy through citizen service and the Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship. She received these fellowships for the work she has been doing at the Open Disclosure Foundation (ODF), a healing centre which she founded in 2001 in aid of survivors of sexual violence. The decision to start ODF followed after Ms Gaelesiwe at the age of 27 finally found the courage to publicly disclose her pain as a victim of sexual violence. She spoke on the radio where she worked as a guest DJ about her nightmare experience when her own father raped her as an eleven year old girl. There was a tremendous response to her telling her story on-air and listeners just continued to phone in. With hundreds of women and men turning to her for help she decided to create a safe and nurturing space for young people to openly disclose their experiences in a welcoming group environment and that was when ODF was born.  

Ms Gladys Thomas recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga (Bronze) is a national and internationally awarded poet, short-story writer, playwright and author of several children’s stories. She received the Order of Ikhamanga in September 2007 from Pres Thabo Mbeki for her outstanding contribution to poetry and short stories which focused on the political injustices and human suffering of the apartheid era and for raising international consciousness about it. Ms Thomas was also awarded the South African Literary Lifetime Achievement Award. Her collection of work is an important record of the emotional and political history of our country and has brought her international acclaim. Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies both locally and internationally and has been translated into amongst others French, German, Turkish, Dutch, Italian, Chinese and Japanese.  

Ms Janet Buckland or simply known as Mama J to the communities in the Eastern Cape has been responsible for the initiation and creation of a significant number of very successful arts and culture projects in the province. She combined her understanding of the value of the arts and particularly theatre in the lives of all South Africans with her skills as a performer, director, fund raiser and administrator to direct these projects over a number of years in the Eastern Cape. The most notably project is UBOM! the Eastern Cape Drama Company, which was the first full time professional drama company in the province. It brings theatre presentations and drama workshops to literally thousands of people in schools and communities all over the Eastern Cape. Since its start almost six years ago Ubom! has reached audiences totalling more than 178 000. It also has provided full time contracts for artists and administrators to work in the Eastern Cape. Ms Buckland is raising the funds to sustain it.  


Ms Nelia Schutte is an entrepreneur who started her high-end children’s occasion and playwear business 15 years ago with almost nothing and grew it into a well-know and trusted brand with a multi-million turnover. It is 100% proudly South African with agents and stores represented in13 countries including South Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia. As a self-starter who just thrives on adrenaline Me Schutte created the Keedo brand in 1993 with a small store in the Tyger Valley Shopping Centre, selling original designs, bright and colourful and made from natural fibers that are breathable and not irritating to little sensitive skins all grown under the African sun. She named it “Keedo” after how she called her own twin daughters her Keedos. After establishing such a successful brand and business Me Schutte says she is the proudest of the fact that she is a job-provider. Keedo has grown in leaps and bounds year after year and creates employment opportunities for over 200 people of who most are single parents with extended families. Of these employees about 85 percent is women and single mothers who look after their children and provide them with an education.  

Simangele Cele and Memory Thandiwe Mfekayi are the owners and managers of Memory Nyalazi Harvest cc a company which specialises in forestry harvesting supplying fell timber to the two multi-national paper companies, Sappi and Mondi. It is truly a path-finding company which is 100% owned by these two women in an industry dominated by men. Since starting their business in 2001 they have grown the company’s operations six times by at first delivering 2500 tons of fell timber and now 16 000 tons per month. Memory Nyalazi Harvest cc‘s business turnover shot from R1.3 million back then to R3.5 million today. The company employs 265 people of which 80% is women and five of the eight supervisory positions are held by women. It is a company which has earned respect for their labour relations. Their wages for staff is ten percent above the state determined wage for forestry workers. Over and above this Memory Nyalazi Harvest cc are transporting workers free of charge to their work in rural areas where there is no transport. Without this transport many of these workers would have remained unemployed or would have had to leave their children at home to stay in compounds. 

Ms Thabang Molefi is qualified as an ethno-medical practitioner and beauty therapist who, with the little savings she had at the time, opened the first health spa in Soweto six years ago. Today she owns The Roots Healthcare Centre, a business with a multi-million rand turnover and branches in three South African provinces and a neighbouring country. Her pioneering health centres introduced affordable health care to black communities through the use of the different but effective technique of iridology for diagnosis and herbs as prescribed medicine. It also offers a beauty and detoxing service for the first time in these areas, all contributing to a healthy and a “feel good about yourself”- lifestyle in previously disadvantaged communities. Since the success of her first centre she has grown her business considerably to establish another seven health care centres in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and a mobile unit visiting communities in rural and remote areas in the rest of the country. She has created 41 jobs for women in these communities and developed some to managerial positions to run the health centres. Ms Molefi has also outsourced services such as accounting, laundry and security to local business. It is her intention to branch out into franchising, creating more business and job opportunities.  


Dr Caroline Leaf is the author of a number of national and international best-selling books on the work she has done as an academic who has researched the human brain with particular emphasis on unlocking the vast untapped potential of the brain. She has linked scientific principles of the brain to emotional and intellectual issues in a simple and practical way and strives to free people from their mental constraints and help them recognise their gift from within. Her unique research and its application has impacted on the lives of hundreds of thousands of learners and educators throughout South Africa and abroad. It has taught them skills to learn by explaining how the brain learns and develops memory, how information moves in and out of the brain and how to maximize on the process. Dr Leaf’s science of the brain based learning methods have served as an example of how dedication and perseverance can change perceptions of limited ability and a lack of hope which have affected thousands of learners in South Africa and other parts of the world 

Ms Phuti Ragophala is the school principal of Pula-Madibogo Primary in Limpopo Province and is an engaging teacher who has rallied her impoverished community to better themselves with the little means they have. She has taught them that there is no limit to the individual’s dream and to just do it even if it takes learning to speak French in a remote area where Sepedi is the language all understands and where English and the other nine official languages is broken. As a teacher for the past 21 years she has put the teaching at Pula-Madibogo Primary on the national map by growing it from a small and forsaken place to a school that has changed its own destiny educating children who has found hope to realise their dreams for future success. It has been her mission to ensure that the learners are taught well so that they leave well equipped and skilled to stand proud. She had the National Flag installed in their school yard and lobbied for the same at neighbouring schools. Ms Ragophala employed committed teachers who lifted teaching standards and lobbied to get lottery money allocated and find sponsors to better the school equipment. She created a culture of being hungry for success and has succeeded with placement for some of the pupils at the Oprah Winfrey School of Academy. Ms Ragophala made the sky her limit and in teaching her pupils how to conquer new cultures she started French language classes so that they will be able to speak to the thousands of visitors who would be speaking French when they visit the country for the 2010 World Cup. 

Ms Roslyn Narain-Mohan is a teacher at the New West Secondary School in Durban who can truly be seen as the Mother Theresa of her community where she has looked at the scourge of virtually every social injustice that have affected them and have launched campaign after campaign to make a difference. Her community is really a microcosm of the broader South African community where HIV/Aids, crime, racial conflict, poverty, age and individual suffering has ravished social interaction and existence. Ms Narain-Mohan took a stand and as passionate teacher decided to not sit back and see these social injustices continue to destroy her community. She took up the cause and decided that she will use her skills as an educator to teach her community how to engage and help seek answers for those social problems haunting her people and the people of South Africa. In her daily teaching and actions she displays respect for her pupils and she encourages them to focus on the positive and seek solutions for the problems their community face daily. Solutions for her does not only mean reaching out, it also means further education, understanding and identification of the real need and support that would help those being helped to help themselves in the long-term. 


Ms Ellen Malinga is a woman who in the past 25 years has never accepted no for an answer in her quest to help those vulnerable and in need, especially the disabled. Despite personal tragedy and loss she has worked relentlessly leaving an astonishing trail of self-help projects that have made a huge difference in the communities where she has been working with bedridden and incapacitated patients. Trained as a community rehabilitation facilitator or a district nurse Ms Malinga has been in the full-time employment of the Muldersdrift Clinic in Gauteng since 2002 and before that she was working in various clinics in Bronkhorstspruit and Alexandra. Through her work she has been in touch daily with the hardship of people and took a special interest in the plight of disabled people and used every spare moment to her avail to initiate self-help projects helping them and others in desperate situations.  

Prof Lorna Barbara Jacklin has dedicated her life and in particular her medical career to improving the lives of children with mental health problems caused by physical disabilities or abuse. She has acted as an Ombudsman for these children who do not fit into mainline education and struggle to fulfil their potential as they are misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated. Mental health problems rob these children of a fair chance in life if not treated as it eventually translates into developmental problems, which in turn bring social problems as children grow up into adults who cannot function independently and are anti-social in their behaviour. Prof Jacklin holds the position of the Principal Consultant Paediatrician with the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand and consults to the Paediatric Department of the Johannesburg Hospital.  

Dr Janet Poole is one of the country’s leading specialists in the field of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology and treats hundreds of patients under the age of 16 years every month in the Johannesburg Hospital. She has 22 years of experience in her field and has achieved an exceptional success rate in the treatment of these young patients with cancer or malignancy, or any blood disorders including inherited blood problems and bleeding disorders. Dr Poole has always kept abreast of the latest research and passes on her knowledge to the hundreds of medical students she lectures at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Medical School. It was her choice to stay in the public sector to work with the poorest of the poor. This has enabled state-of-the-art medical treatment to reach many South African children diagnosed with cancer regardless of race, creed, social standing or financial status.  


Dr Lindsay Linzer is an internationally awarded research seismologist who has worked for the past 13 years doing applied research for the mining industry with the main objective of improving safety underground. Her PhD thesis received the prestigious Rocha Medal from the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) for the best doctoral thesis in the field of rock mechanics and rock engineering. It was only the second time that the Medal was awarded to a woman. She has specialist skills in determining the nature of the seismic source through a mathematical procedure known as “moment tensor inversion” and her computer software is being used by seismologists all over the world in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, California and recently, Oman. Dr Linzer developed a technique for determining the nature of the seismic source from measurements of seismic waves that applies particularly to the deep level mining environment. It allows better understanding of these sources enabling mining engineers to design safer mines as their insights into the driving factors causing rock-bursts underground improves and thereby saving lives. 

Prof Claire Penn, who was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe - Silver by Pres Thabo Mbeki at the end of last year, is an internationally acknowledged scientist and academic who has proved that women can reach the pinnacle of academic excellence and match their male colleagues in conducting high-level scientific research. She received the Order of Mapungubwe for her contribution to the field of speech and language pathology, especially in the areas of linguistics, sign language, child language, and aphasia as well as for her groundbreaking research in understanding the complexities of human communication. Prof Penn chose this career because of her fascination with the power of words. She sees communication at the heart of the human endeavour, a capacity which is complex, vulnerable and both a science and an art. It can forge and sustain relationships but can equally represent the main reason for a breakdown in understanding between individuals and communities.  

Ms Simone Abramson, a 17-year old inventor and gold medallist at this year’s Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition has provisionally patented the intellectual and commercial rights for her world-first invention using a new biometric method to identify a person. This grade 11 pupil at Herzlia High School in Cape Town discovered that the fundus, or back of the eye area, has elements that are different in each individual person, a discovery which opens a world of opportunities for photo-identification of individuals. Her project aptly called “The Future of Identification” is still in its prototype stage but has enormous potential. Most of the biometric methods used today such as fingerprinting have limitations. Ms Abramson’s fundus identification method will be more reliable and would be able to analyse data quicker once fully developed. This discovery will have enormous commercial viability. It has sufficient scope to benefit all South African citizens, from crime fighting being able to identify existing criminals, preventing identity theft to safely storing people’s medical and other data as well as immigration control. This fundus identification number can be a new method to give people identification numbers as we know them.  


Ms Angie Phaliso manages the Rand Water Foundation which she established from scratch with the purpose to help with education to preserve South Africa’s precious water resources and doing it in such a way that it helps alleviate poverty, creates employment and improves the lives of people living in communities close to environmentally sensitive areas. 
The interventions she has steered includes projects to repair domestic leaks and infra-structure for better sanitation and hygiene, urban greening to beautify townships and under-resourced areas, and food security initiatives based on community farming. An example of the success of the projects of her Foundation is various wetland rehabilitation projects, which her organization has established to rehabilitate ecosystems that are essential for South Africa’s sustainable supply of fresh water. In another project and after consultation she also managed to get a buy in from the management and workers to introduce a staff involvement programme. All of them down tools for periods of times to go and build for needy communities. 

Ms Malilensha Cecilia Zungu could not forsake her roots and after many years in a career in education she returned to Middleplaas at the Shongwe Mission near Malelane at Nkomazi Municipality in Mpumalanga to launch a series of self-help projects which have had a profound effect on this community, especially the youth. The people of the mission speak of her as their guardian angle who returned home to give so much and yet expect nothing at all in return. When she arrived back she immediately consulted with the all people of Middleplaas before she kicked off with a number of inspiring upliftment projects. One of the first ideas was to start a computer centre in the village to help the young people to be trained to use a tool that is so essential in modern business and to bridge the digital divide. The community was one hundred percent behind her and when she spoke to the local Induna he made the first donation, an important donation of five hectors of land. The project started with the vision of building a computer centre but it soon grew to include agricultural activities on the land, HIV/ AIDS counselling as well as arts, craft and cultural activities and a youth club.  

Dr Veni Naidu gave up a high powered and lucrative career in the corporate world ten years ago to make a real and meaningful contribution in the world of development in the hope of becoming part of a solution for a better South Africa. She enriched her education with the focus on development and received a doctorate in researching the potential impact of HIV and AIDS on business, families and on the communities in which they live. As most studies focused on the medical aspects of HIV and AIDS at that stage she believed it to be essential to investigate the economic and social impacts. She initially undertook a study of the impact of HIV and AIDS on strategic market plans. Dr Naidu completed the first study in South Africa on the impact of HIV and AIDS on income-earning urban households and added new knowledge to the subject. Other researchers have expanded on her work and some of her micro economic studies have been used in macro economic modelling. As Dr Naidu has not been shy to tread uncharted waters to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged South Africans she has made significant contributions in the field of health and social development. Her work has pointed at what the costs of morbidity and mortality of HIV and AIDS to households are and that extending people’s lives with treatment is more beneficial to business and to the individual’s family.  


Dr Bronwyn Bock-Jonathan is the first player of colour who has played netball for South Africa and then went on to captain the South African National Netball Team for a number of years. She has also excelled in the academic arena receiving a PhD in sport science from Stellenbosch University earlier this year. Dr Bock-Jonathan was recognised for her excellence and commitment to the sporting community not only as a player but also as a coach, official, academic, researcher and mentor when she was named the South African flag-bearer for Team SA at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. She is also a recipient of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in South Africa. When she chose netball as her sport Dr Bock-Jonathan was playing for the fifth team at the University of Stellenbosch but worked her way up to the first team and soon made it to national level. She has played 51 tests, two Commonwealth Games and one World Cup Game.  

Prof Sherylle Calder is a visual performance skills coach and world authority on the subject who has the distinction of having received back-to-back World Cup winners’ medals after coaching skills to both the triumphant Springboks last year and the 2003 English World Cup winners. As the only person in the world who has achieved this and with a PhD in visual performance training she is a pioneer in this field and has created an exciting new sport science that is sought-after by international sporting champions and coaches. Prof Calder has worked with and coached some of the world’s top sport teams helping them finding an extra edge and dimension in their game. The new science is based on the thinking that nothing happens in sport until the eye tells the body what to do. Prof Calder, herself a South African hockey player for fourteen years, developed this eye technique to improve her own game and called it Eyethink. Between 1982 and 1996 she represented South Africa in hockey, gaining 50 international field hockey caps and 15 indoor caps. Recognition as one of the top players of her era came in 1995 when she was selected for the team comprising the top 11 players in the pre-Olympic Qualifying Hockey Tournament.  

Ms Heather Clark won gold earlier this year at the International Surfing World Championships in the masters category crowning her as the best female surfer in the world in the over 35 category. She won this title after dominating the International World qualifying series for 14 consecutive years. She represented South Africa on the International World Surfing Tour which features the top 16 surfers in the world for a record seven years in a row achieving a highest ranking of third competing all over the world. In the 20 years she has participated in this male-dominated sport Heather won numerous national and international titles. Apart from representing her province KwaZulu-Natal 12 times she has been four-times South African Women’s Champion and won the South African Women's Professional title seven times. One of her biggest achievements was winning the sought-after Vans Triple Crown title after an awesome performance in Hawaii becoming the first and only South African, male or female, to win this prestigious title. She was recognised for this win with a State Presidents Award in 2001 

The Shoprite Checkers/SABC2 Woman of the Year Award is a major initiative for National Women’s Day, which identifies and pays tribute to the most exceptional and achieving women in the country who have not only achieved success in their own respective fields but who have made a tangible difference in communities and society as a whole. 

The outstanding achiever in each category as well as the overall winner of the Award will be announced at a gala event in Cape Town at the end of July 2008. The event will be broadcast in a celebratory television programme on SABC2 at 20h00 on Saturday, 9 August 2008 when National Women’s Day is celebrated. 

SABC2 will also broadcast individual inserts on each of the 21 finalists in this Award every evening just after the evening TV News bulletins at 19h30 and 21h00 from Saturday, 12 July 2008 to Thursday, 31 July 2008. All these finalists’ inserts will then be combined in a 48-minute programme which will be broadcast on Sunday, 3 August at 21h00 also on SABC2. 

In celebrating its 13th anniversary the Award will honour seven winners in the following categories: arts, culture and communications; business entrepreneurs; education; health; science and technology; social welfare; and sport. The overall winner will be selected from one of these seven category winners.

Each of the seven category winners of the 2008 Shoprite Checkers / SABC 2 Woman of the Year Award will receive R10 000 in prize money, while the overall winner will receive R30 000 in prize money.

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