Women of steel within our community
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.“ As part of National Women´s Month, the North-West University (NWU) focuses on women who roll up their sleeves for a better life for others - especially for those in the rural communities.
An initiative that the NWU has launched as part of its health research is not only closing the generation gap between young and old, but is also creating a unique platform for transferring much-needed knowledge about traditional dishes and the advantages they hold.
The research activities of the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR) concentrates specifically on the prevention of illnesses, the sustainability and promotion of health and the facilitation of quality health systems – particularly in rural areas.
A team of experts that specifically focuses on nutrition and psychology, identified the communities of Jan-Kempdorp and Sekeng near Pampierstad in North West. Around 120 female participants, spanning three generations, were invited to get together so that the old school could teach the young about traditional food and its preparation. Something that many children and adolescents have no exposure to. The senior citizens had to identify dishes and provide the young with a list of ingredients that they had to go and buy. As part of the research programme, AUTHeR sponsored the ingredients.
Mildred Thomas, an employee of the North-West University, has been a member of the AUTHeR team since 2015. “I was initially employed for administrative tasks but the more one gets involved in these wonderful initiatives, the more one wants to become part of them.” She was closely involved in the initiatives in these areas.
“It is marvellous to see not only how the NWU can make a difference in rural areas but also how a bond is formed between the communities and the University. We could offer solutions for a social problem between young and old.”
Thomas says the traditional dishes and ways of preparation were completely new experiences for many of the young. “The nutritional benefits of these foods are invaluable. Most of today’s children are not necessarily interested in traditional values, simply because they are unfamiliar with the benefits they hold or they have never been exposed to them. It meant so much to me to be able to see how much the young ones could learn from the old folks and the respect that was shown in the process,” she says.
The transdisciplinary health research team follows a holistic approach to problems and opportunities in health research that specifically apply to Africa and developing countries. Particularly where health is affected by HIV/AIDS and rapid urbanisation, and where the empowerment of people and the development of human capital are of major importance. An initiative that will go full steam ahead for many years to come.
Mildred Thomas, an employee of the North-West University, has been a member of the AUTHeR team since 2015.