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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

#Women’sMonth: Who am I? Questions of identity among Rwandan rape survivors
2017-08-03

 Description: Michelle Nöthling, Questions of identity among Rwandan rape survivors Tags: Michelle Nöthling, Questions of identity among Rwandan rape survivors 

Michelle Nöthling, master’s degree student
in the Centre for Trauma, Forgiveness, and
Reconciliation Studies at the UFS.
Photo: Eugene Seegers

From 7 April to 15 July 1994, a mass genocide swept through Rwanda after years of Belgian colonial rule that divided the country along ethnic lines. Rape was also used as part of a political strategy to torture and humiliate mainly Tutsi women, and as a means of spreading HIV.

Individual focus
Why is it important to listen to what these rape survivors have to say? Michelle Nöthling, a master’s student in the UFS Centre for Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies, responds, “We speak of groups – refugees, foreigners, and the like – yet we tend to forget the individuals and the lasting impact trauma has had on each person.”

Narrative exploration
Michelle maintains that we are the product of the narratives around us; things like – how to be a woman, how to dress, speak, or treat others. Her research delves into how these rape survivors see themselves, how they narrate their lives. She also investigates power relations based on gender; for example, how language can be used as a divisive tool.

Rwandan backdrop
In Rwanda, gender roles are deeply entrenched. Traditionally, a ‘girl’ remains such while she is a virgin. Her transition into womanhood is usually marked by marriage and followed by motherhood. But rape disrupts this structure, leading to an identity crisis as these girls are catapulted into motherhood with an unplanned child resulting from a traumatic event.

“We are the product of
the narratives around us.”

Reaching their mid-teens, the children, too, started asking questions about identity or paternity. For those mothers who were finally able to open up to their children, the experience has been mostly liberating – often leading to a closer relationship between parent and child. Michelle intends to interrogate how such significant moments shape the way these women perceive themselves. Research tends to portray these survivors solely as mothers of rape-born children. Michelle, however, seeks to examine their identities more deeply.

“These survivors still bear the heavy burden of being marginalised, stigmatised, and severely humiliated. Despite this, they have developed their own communities of belonging; people with whom they connect, to whom they relate, and to whom they are not ashamed to tell their experiences,” she said.

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