13 August 2020 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Charl Devenish
Dr Stephanie Cawood has great admiration for two women – her mother and Wagani Maathai. Both strong women from Africa.

Dr Stephanie Cawood from the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies is passionate about the African continent, its people, and especially the women of Africa. As an African studies researcher, Dr Cawood admires a pioneer of feminism in Africa, the late Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive a Nobel Prize. 

Dr Cawood is trained in communication science and media studies; her field of specialisation is oral communication, particularly rhetoric and oral tradition.  She obtained her PhD in 2011 with the thesis titled, The Rhetorical Imprint of Nelson Mandela as Reflected in Public Speeches, 1950-2004. 

Some of her most recent research projects include ‘Memorialising Struggle Dynamics of Memory, Space and Power in Post-Liberation Africa’, funded by the British Academy under the Newton Advanced Fellowship.

In the Q&A below, Dr Cawood shares some of her inner thoughts. 

Please tell us about yourself: Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Senior Lecturer in and Director of the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the UFS. This means that I am engaged in teaching, research, and strategic leadership.

Is there a woman who inspires you and who you would like to celebrate this Women’s Month, and why?
There are many women I admire. I find great inspiration in ordinary people doing extraordinary things. On a personal level, my mum has always inspired me. For a long time, she was involved in labour relations; I have always admired her ability to keep calm and to think rationally and strategically in the face of adversity. From a feminist standpoint, I greatly admire the late Nobel peace prize winner, Wangari Maathai. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and the first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize for her environmental, political, and feminist activism. In 1971, she obtained her PhD in Science from the University College of Nairobi when it was not common for women to do so. Her life is testament to the fact that it only takes one person to start a movement and to make a change. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your life that have made you a better woman?
I believe you should look to the future rather than get stuck in the past. I try to constantly learn from my experiences so that I don’t repeat mistakes and can learn to anticipate future challenges and circumvent them. 

What advice would you give to the 15-year-old you?
Enjoy life and don’t be afraid of thinking independently. It’s a good thing. 

What would you say makes you a champion woman [of the UFS]?
I’m not afraid of trying new things and thinking and doing things in unique and unconventional ways. I am a firm believer in treating people with humanity and respect and I try to live by this creed, although I’m not always successful. The key is in trying to do better every day.  

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.