22 August 2019 | Story Zama Feni | Photo Charl Devenish
Innocentia working in the lab
UFS academic, Innocensia Mangoato, doing her work in the laboratory.

Born as the only girl among boys in the Tanzanian capital city of Dar es Salaam in 1992, the University of the Free State (UFS) academic Innocensia Mangoato says she feels inspired by women who strive to break the barricades of patriarchy.

“I am inspired by resilient women who are able to overcome everyday challenges, even in a world that treats men as superiors,” she says.

At the tender age of 27, Mangoato has achieved more than many of her peers. Last year, she won a Women in Science Award (WISA) for her research on the use of cannabis in cancer treatment.  She is now a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) candidate in Pharmacology and also a researcher and lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology – a job she started in May this year.

Early years

Mangoate’s dad was in exile at the ANC base camp outside Morogoro in Tanzania and met her Tanzanian mother during his stay there; she returned with her parents to South Africa in 1994, as political organisations were already unbanned at that time.

One of the factors that Mangoate attributes her academic success to, is her parents. “Both my parents valued education, and I believe this greatly contributed to my development. Coming from a rural upbringing, one of the lessons I learned is that perseverance and hard work always pay off.”

On her navigation of life – trying to determine what exactly could mould her to become what she wanted to be, Mangoate hailed her father as her pillar of strength. “When the going gets tough, my father has always been there to remind me to “keep on keeping on, no matter how hard it may be, because there’s always victory on the other side.”

Academic success

Mangoate obtained her master’s in Pharmacology at the UFS June 2019 graduation ceremony, one month before South Africa celebrates Women’s Month. She brands herself as “a representative of all women in science” and is enjoying empowering young scientists through lecturing and research at the university.

Asked about what nobody else knows about her, Mangoate hesitated for a moment and then beamed, “I am an academic at heart.” There is no doubt about this, as her academic achievements really attest to that.

On how she envisions the UFS in future, especially with regard to women’s issues, she boldly states: “More women will be running departmental affairs, working towards progressive change within the UFS for both the academics and other programmes.”

She interprets success as something that is measured by happiness, being able to help other people reach their goals, and the ability to achieve all one wishes for, while making sure that it’s both impactful and beneficial to others.

Mangoate’s advice to other would-be academic achievers is that they should be focused and determined when it comes to achieving their goals, working diligently in everything they do, “irrespective of whether you like it or not”.

“Being the only girl among boys has taught me to always strive to be better than myself and not to compete with anyone,” says Mangoate.

“Just show up and give it your all.”

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