12 February 2021 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Charl Devenish
Dr Alice Ncube says that since coming to South Africa and working with vulnerable communities in the disaster (risk) management field, she has gained extensive knowledge and perspectives on the real-life situations of humanity.

While working in human resources and industrial-relations management portfolios, Dr Alice Ncube saw a window of opportunity to get into research, focusing on the challenges that was threatening the human capital management sectors and the general operations of governments and the private sector. 

Today, Dr Ncube is teaching students and doing research in the Disaster Management Training and Education Centre (DiMTEC) at the University of the Free State (UFS), where she is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director.

On 11 February – International Day of Women and Girls in Science – the UFS is celebrating Dr Ncube, who chose to be a scientist due to her desire to make a difference. 

Being a migrant facing several challenges in her host country motivated her to do her PhD on international migration, specifically on women from developing countries to other developing countries such as South Africa.

Her research also covers related topics, including social vulnerability and resilience, international forced migration, gender issues, climate change and adaptation, and sustainable livelihoods of disadvantaged communities.

Demystifying perceptions

“Many persons who do not reside in the country believe that South Africa is a land of opportunities – socially, politically, and economically – due to its position on the African continent. This all-round positive picture of the country painted to the outside world is the main reason for the huge inflow of migrants into the country,” believes Dr Ncube. 

She envisaged that her study would assist in demystifying the perception that migrants are those who come to a host country to take local jobs and put pressure on local resources.

“I felt that gender migration in this space is under-researched, particularly migration of women. Migration is not gender neutral, but gender biased, as evidenced by the 1960s and early 1970s, where terms such as ‘migrants and their families’ were coded to refer to male migrants and their wives and children. Although women were nearly invisible, there is evidence of them migrating as independent agencies and also taking along their families, including husbands,” she explains.

Exploring the coping and adaptation strategies that women employ in the host country, she found that although faced with many challenges, the migrant women cope and adapt well.

Her research as well as her work of more than 10 years with the vulnerable communities, including migrants, has established that the resilience of vulnerable communities is bigger than the intervention strategies that governments and other stakeholders envisage.

People are hungry for knowledge that will better their lives. – Dr Alice Ncube

Impacting lives

“Since coming to South Africa and working with vulnerable communities in the disaster (risk) management field, I have gained extensive knowledge and perspectives on the real-life situations of humanity, let alone in our continent and region,” she says.

She has worked with government departments at local, district, provincial, and national levels in an effort to change the conditions faced by poor, marginalised, and disadvantaged communities. Dr Ncube was also involved in community capacity-building activities through short courses and short learning programmes. 

She considers the training she has presented as one of the biggest achievements of her life. “People are hungry for knowledge that will better their lives.” 

“This has been so fulfilling to me as I have made an impact on the lives of the people,” says Dr Ncube.

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