Live with Batho Mokiti

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Join us LIVE on Instagram this Thursday with Batho Mokiti as she shares HER STORY!

Mmabatho is a mathematician turned impact entrepreneur with a passion for education and youth development. She started a career as an entrepreneur at 20 when she started a tutoring company; Mathemaniacs; while studying at university towards her BSc Mathematics degree, but soon realized that she wanted to serve disadvantaged schools and communities, which is when she decided to approach cooperates to design CSI (Corporate Social Investment/ Responsibility) strategies which invested in bringing quality STEM education to rural and disadvantaged schools so as to get more black learners to study in the STEM industry.

More this Thursday – See you at 12pm SHARP!

Instagram Live: Mental and Spiritual Health during a Pandemic

Join us LIVE TODAY, 6pm, on Instagram as we tackle the subject of Mental Health and Spiritual Health during a Pandemic!

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Our guest is Dr. Alixis Rhodes, psychologist in a men’s correctional facility in California. She also is a co-founder of the “No Black Girl Left Behind’  organization that connects, uplifts , inspires women of color.

Dr. Rhodes is a worldwide traveler that is a true advocate for mental health.

See you later on Instagram!

Real Estate Market Reimagined  

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Real Estate strikes a chord with most South Africans, whether from a personal or professional vantage point. For most citizens, ownership of real estate is often preluded by a long, uphill journey. As more people and businesses are in a position to acquire and develop property, so the job opportunities increase. And livelihoods are directly impacted.

Paper house under a magnifying lensOur STEAM Room guest aptly points this out, stating that activities in the sector become “the catalyst for socio-economic development”. The construction sector, amidst challenges in 2019, employed over 8% of the country’s labour force and output accounted for around 4% of gross domestic product (GDP). The real estate sector on the other hand, together with the finance and business services sectors, significantly contributed to the increase in the country’s real GDP in 2019.

This year has seen the entire economy suffer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This tragedy has also made us relook how we can do business going forward. It has made us reimagine a new normal. We are excited to have Neo Sekhantso, a young and dynamic professional in the real estate sector, shed more light on what the sector has been experiencing.

IMG-20200510-WA0009Tell us about yourself and how you came to be in the property and real estate sector?

I am 33 years old and am a qualified Professional Quantity Surveyor working as a Property/Real Estate Development Manager for one of the largest Asset Management Companies in the Continent. I live and work in Gauteng.

I studied a BSc Construction Studies and a BSc (Honours) in Quantity Surveying at the University of Cape Town between 2005 and 2008. I also completed the SAPOA and UCT GSB Property Development Programme in 2017. To enhance my skills-set and further qualify myself for a move into the asset management space, I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business (PDBA) at The Gordon Institute of Business Science in 2019 and then did a short online course in Commercial Real Estate Analysis and Planning with the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. 

I began my career at MLC Cape Town, starting off as a graduate then worked my way to Quantity Surveyor. I then worked at AECOM for five years; first as a Quantity Surveyor in their Cape Town office, before I was promoted to a Senior Quantity Surveyor position and ultimately an Associate Director in their Sandton office. In 2018, I changed disciplines within the Built Environment and started work as a Real Estate Development Manager at an Asset Management company in their Properties Division (Unlisted).

Why this interest in property and real estate?

I firmly believe that infrastructure (roads, railway, dams, bridges, ports, powerplants etc.)  and the Built Environment is the catalyst for socio-economic development. This belief is demonstrated by the fact that when governments want to develop or grow an economy, infrastructure and built environment spending is often increased. In addition, expenditure in this sector creates job opportunities within communities and supplies better facilities for social and commercial use.

What does your typical workday look like?

My role entails Property Development Management from the ideation phase; initial market studies and town planning; feasibility studies and presentation to the relevant internal bodies for project approval; design and construction phases; to the completion and hand over of a property asset (be it a new retail centre or office park) to property asset management teams and/or client(s). Typically, this includes the management of design teams including Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors, Architects, Engineers, and other construction professionals. It also includes being part of a deal team that is involved in the internal approval processes. 

My typical workday involves several meetings and a lot of stakeholder management. Interpersonal communication, writing skills, management skills, and an understanding of technical construction-related matters and real estate finance are key skills required as a Property Development Manager.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the real estate sector?

The response to the pandemic has meant different things for the various parts of the real estate market. For developments and construction sites it has meant stalled projects and the shutting down of construction sites locally and abroad. For real estate professionals, it has meant working from home and continuing with design, cost management, and project management for projects on-site and those in the pipeline.

 From a design perspective, there has also been a lot of rethinking and thought leadership. Office spaces, retail, and the built environment must consider our needs post-COVID-19, especially in relation to allowances for space per person to allow for social distancing.  Also to be considered is permanent working-from-home solutions and its effects on the population’s health; the impact of online shopping on brick and mortar stores; and a myriad of other health considerations (AECOM : How Corona Virus May Change the Future of Work, 2020).

 An already ailing construction industry has felt the impact of the pandemic. The socio-economic impact of the shutting down of construction sites of urgently required bulk infrastructure and facilities for communities will be alleviated somewhat by the new local Level 4 lockdown conditions which will allow some key projects to continue.

Which measures do you think can help the real estate sector recover? What steps can be taken by the key stakeholders?

This is a very complex question and it requires a multi-pronged and well thought out and researched solution. However, based on my observations and readings, the following interventions will be required in the short term (the next 6 to 12 months).

Construction sites need to strictly comply with the regulations and guidelines as set out by the Department of Labour and Health. Furthermore, Health and Safety plans and protocols will have to be reviewed to include measures for preventing and containing communicable diseases. Landlords, retailers, manufacturers, etc. need to be particularly vigilant and provide the necessary screening and personal protective equipment (PPE) required to ensure that infections are kept low.

 Government has already thought through the re-opening of all industries in a phased manner, considering the impact on the economy and the risk profile of each industry. Industry leaders and the government must continue working together in ensuring the survival of the industry and the safekeeping of human lives during this period.

In the long term, there may be a shift in thinking around the built environment: how people work and learn, and where they work and learn. A shift in the design of office, industrial, learning, healthcare, and retail space; in the thinking around business nodes and their distance from people’s homes; in the spatial and urban design thinking and transportation facilities and the quality thereof from a health and safety perspective (AECOM : How Corona Virus May Change the Future of Work, 2020). There will also be a focus on technologically integrated design to allow remote connection of people, and touchless and remote operation of facilities. 

The Built Environment and Real Estate Market, however, is a resilient one. In my opinion, as long as there are people that need spaces to work, live, learn, heal, etc. the market will rebound in some shape. However, I believe it will not be business as usual and the future may not be what we expect. As an industry and as users of the Built Environment, we need to continue to be proactive and innovative as we have been in the past and adapt to the future.

Many of the ideas and ideals we have been engaging through Fourth Industrial Revolution dialogues these past couple of years are now critical for our survival. We have no choice but to adapt. Many have lost their businesses. Many have lost their jobs. Many have lost their lives.

As we bring our STEAM Room COVID-19 series to an end, we hope you are able to take in the priceless information we have gathered from these discussions with industry insiders and use these nuggets to help us move forward. The STEAM Room will be back with more insightful interviews and relevant topics from more remarkable women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

About the Author

Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.    

 About the STEAM Room

The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated. 

Accessing Quality Healthcare

South Africans are very well aware of the inequalities which exist in our society. Health is one of the glaring issues we are grappling with. The country, along with the rest of the world, is finding ways of capacitating and improving the healthcare system to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Access to quality healthcare “is a particular concern given the centrality of poor access in perpetuating poverty and inequality”’. Access, here, can be understood in two ways: availability and affordability. Without adequate healthcare facilities in their communities, people living in these communities are disadvantaged. Likewise, without the financial means to receive the required quality healthcare, many are deprived of the help they sorely need.

South Africa has come a long way since attaining its democracy. South Africa has also inherited and perpetuated many challenges. Quality healthcare is a tug of war, with many citizens who can afford it, opting to utilise private healthcare as it is perceived to be of better quality.

scineAccording to the Institute of Medicine, quality healthcare is “the degree to which health care services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge”. Amidst COVID-19, we have seen drastic improvements; government has realised that this is also the most opportune time to start piloting the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI). President Cyril Ramaphosa, at a recent tour of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, mused,  “That is phenomenal, and in many ways this hospital, through the Covid crisis, [is] being transformed to be ready for NHI [National Health Insurance], and we are putting the building blocks in place.”

Dr Rampedi stepped into the STEAM Room with a view that our public healthcare system can do more to benefit those who need it most while ensuring that instead of “perpetuating poverty and inequality”, people’s livelihoods are improved.

bioTell us about yourself

I am Dr Reshoketsoe Rampedi, a general practitioner. I studied in Pretoria and did my internship at the Helen Joseph/Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital complex. I have always believed in providing good quality healthcare for previously disadvantaged communities. At the time, I thought I wanted to be an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and super-specialise in fertility.

 Growing up I looked up to women like Dr Judy Dlamini; I always felt she was the epitome of the black female doctor I wanted to be. I grew up reading books on the first black woman this and that. I have had an interest, even outside of medicine, on how I can positively impact women.

I did my community service in a township called Refilwe in Cullinan. I spent a year there and enjoyed it. It was great. I think that’s where I mostly found my purpose; providing service for people who appreciate what you are doing for them. These people had little or nothing. It’s humbling being able to bring solutions to them; some have had these problems for years but there was no one willing to go the extra mile. This is where I had to say ‘if you are going to start something, finish it; if you won’t do it wholeheartedly, don’t do it all’.

 I have recently been appointed business development manager for Hutz Hospitec, a division of Hutz Medical which is a local medical device manufacturing company.  We offer cost-effective refurbishment and remodelling solutions to existing ailing healthcare facilities.

What does a day in your life look like?

A day in my life is balanced between being at the practice on alternative days, with the remainder of the time at the office. I would like to be part of the 5am club, but the days vary with increasing default with my home exercises ( LOL). But we will get there, baby steps.

That’s another thing about healthcare workers. You work long hours. How do you do it?

What’s important is that you do your work with purpose and passion. That’s what will drive you to get up and make a difference. Yes, we hate having to leave our families and sometimes miss out on dates with friends because ‘I’m on call’’ or  I’m at work… I have had the privilege of working in supportive teams, even from my internship days. I also come from a background where my father is also a doctor and before I started medicine he sat me down on the importance of humility. In our profession you must not forget to be humble. Humility will take you a long way, not forgetting your support structure.

How has COVID 19 impacted the health industry: directly and indirectly?

From the perspective of a general practitioner, we have seen a lot of foot traffic. People are more self-aware. There is also a lot of misinformation. Most of the patients I have seen don’t really understand what COVID-19 is. The impact of fake news has led to the belief that black people can’t get it… people must just drink ginger and garlic… one must swallow their cough because the stomach acid will kill the virus, etc.

Fake news is serious. The impact of someone like a prophet saying lockdown doesn’t work goes a long way because people believe them: if they could drink petrol because a priest said so… You can imagine the impact they have in our society.

People must rely on NDOH, WHO and NICD with credible information; The NDOH has a dedicated whatsapp number which contributes towards the latest updates and is quite informative. COVID-19 extensively covered by all news networks, and the information overload also contributes to the anxiety we see in many of our patients 

Indirectly, I have seen the social impact COVID-19 has had. Fortunately for us, we are essential workers so we are working every day. Some people, it’s no work no pay. On my way to work, I drive through the community of Diepsloot; we say wash your hands, isolate and social distance but they don’t have the space to social distance.

On the education front, especially in our poorer communities, children assume it’s a normal school holiday. Some parents are taking the initiative to help them with school work. But some don’t have that liberty, some of them are with grandparents.

 On the positive side of things, this pandemic has presented opportunities for telehealth and telemedicine. In already established rapport between healthcare worker and patient and depending on how sever the condition is, we can have video or telephonic consultations. You don’t have to close shop but use technology to adapt to the current situation.

It has also opened up a number of opportunities for the local manufacturing industry. This clearly indicates our capability as Africans.

Which takes us to our last question on life post-lockdown. What can the health sector do and what should people do to better equip themselves?

The reality is a lot of jobs will have to be shed based on the impact of COVID-19. If you can adapt and remain operational now, during COVID-19, it will be advantageous. Adapting post-COVID-19 will depend on the skillset you acquired during this time.

In as much as technology is an enabler, we need to adapt technology to suit our context. We can see this through collaboration. Collaborations with government and the private sector should not end when COVID-19 ends. It should be ongoing. This moment is a test to see if we can come together in the long term and work together to make our health system work.

Rural areas, for example, can have mobile radiology testing which can be operated remotely. We can train community healthcare workers to do these and people do not have to break their pockets every time they need healthcare services.

It’s an opportunity for us to not divert, but adapt. We have the opportunity to train, reskill and upskill the youth and community. 

What is clear is that we have been afforded opportunities to reset, rebuild and do things better than we have in the past. By improving our public healthcare system, we will be impacting on the livelihood of patients and concurrently creating employment opportunities. For South Africa to realise this, as Dr Rampedi has mentioned, we need to collaborate. There is power in unity.

McLaren, Zoe; Ardington, Cally; Leibbrandt, Murray. 2013.  Distance as a barrier to health care access in South Africa

About the Author:

Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.    

About the STEAM Room

The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated. 

Instagram Live Chat with Mushfiqoh Samodien

Join our Live Chat this Friday, 1 May 2020, as we interview @mushfi_qoh about her story on how she built a multimillion rand company. See you with a cuppa ☕️ at 12pm SAST.

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No More Business As Usual

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The world finds itself in a position where we have to acknowledge our universal co-dependence. Countries have no choice but to work together in this global fight against COVID-19. The pandemic has had an unimaginable impact on our respective health systems, social wellbeing, and, of course, the economy. The insurance and financial services industries have a critical role to play.

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According to PwC’s COVID-19 and the Insurance Industry article, “Insurance companies play a pivotal role during times of economic stress by helping companies and households manage risks and cushion against losses. Yet, as one of the biggest groups of investors, they are also vulnerable to volatility in financial markets.”

This double-edged scenario places the industry in a very precarious position where nothing short of innovative approaches will help us all adjust to the ‘new normal’ of life after the pandemic.

Makhosazana Dubazana visited the STEAM Room and gave us a sneak peek into the local insurance industry.

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Please share a bit about yourself

My name is Makhosazana ‘Khosi’ Dubazana. I studied Geography and Geology and completed my Masters in Geography and Environmental Studies, focusing on Climatology and Human Health Risk of Environmental Degradation.  During my Masters, I also completed a Data Science programme with the Explore Data Science Academy which enabled me to start my journey as a Data Scientist now working in the insurance industry. I am currently based in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng. 

How was a day in your life pre-COVID-19?

A typical day on the job would start off by attending to work e-mails and answering questions from business units I service. I would attend meetings to discuss the needs and requirements for the business operations team I service. In these meeting, we discuss problems they have  and the different data solutions we can implement in order to solve or better understand the problem. I would then scope out the solution and analysis data or build the solution.

My job generally requires minimum contact with the business operations team; all I need is a computer, software and a few meetings to touch base and I am good to go. Due to this, I am able to continue working from home. It is not the same for all people who work in this sector; many had to put down their tools to remain at home and help flatten the curve.  

 How has the insurance industry been affected by COVID-19?

COVID-19 has forced our industry to re-evaluate the way in which we conduct business; the areas of the financial service of the insurance industry have been deemed essential services during the lockdown. Therefore insurance companies are still operating to ensure consumers can claim. In many instances, a customer can claim, the claim cannot be serviced as it’s a non-essential service. Therefore, for smaller businesses that render those services and work in partnership with the insurance companies, that means they are not able to stay open during this time, which will result in cash flow deficits. The insurance industry had to step up and ensure that they support these small businesses with support packages. Furthermore, the industry has put into place measures to support its consumers during this time, where we see most insurers having implemented premium reductions for the month of May. Some insurers have also implemented a reduced excess amount for claims in the period during and after the lockdown.

Companies in the sector, have implemented various strategies to continue business. Others have expanded the work-from-home policy not only to technical roles, but a number of call centre agents who are working from home to ensure that consumer needs are met and supported.     

 How can the insurance industry recover and assist the country in recovery?

In the insurance sector, companies have put into place ways in which they can support and help small businesses to insure that they stay afloat during this period. This has largely been done by making funding available to support these businesses. Companies in the sector have put mechanisms in place to support consumers. However, the industry will face losses when consumers cancel insurance plans in order to save a few bucks or as a result of jobs losses.

As the insurance industry, we cannot control job losses. Government should continue to seek ways to support big and small businesses for the next few months or until businesses have recovered from the impact of the lockdown period.

 As South Africa’s lockdown continues and number of infections rise, businesses are putting together plans which will ensure their survival post-COVID-19. How will the world be after lockdown? We may not know. But we all know it will not be different and perhaps this calls for a different way of doing business, especially in the insurance and financial services industries.

About the Author:

Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.    

 About the STEAM Room:

The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated. 

Global Health: all eyes on COVID-19

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South Africans recently received the news that the lockdown has been extended for another two weeks. Although frustrating, it’s a necessary measure when our lives are at risk. As of 10 April 2020, COVID-19 has infected more than one and a half million people worldwide and lockdowns have proved effective in reducing the spread.

“In the two weeks before the lockdown, the average daily increase in new cases [in South Africa] was around 42%. Since the start of the lockdown, the average daily increase has been around 4%,” announced President Cyril Ramaphosa during his public address on 9 April 2020.

Well over 100 countries worldwide had instituted either a full or partial lockdown by the end of March 2020, affecting billions of people. However, our health system, and the global health system, would surely crumble under the weight of the cases should lockdowns not be extended and/or respected.

medical“We are at a critical point in the global response to COVID-19 – we need everyone to get involved in this massive effort to keep the world safe,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation’s Director-General.

With all hands on deck to combat COVID-19, wealthy countries are in a position to buy out masks, gloves and test kits amidst the global scramble for these medical necessities. UNICEF has only managed to receive a tenth of the 240 million masks requested by poor countries. And all the while, the diseases and patients which were there before this pandemic still persist. 

Dr Shakira Choonara, who is no stranger to the realities and challenges in the health sector, in Africa and globally, took the time to enter our STEAM Room.

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Tell us about a bit about yourself

I am an independent public health practitioner (research and advocacy). My field of work includes health policy and system research; HIV; gender equality; and youth development. I’m also a special appointment to the African Union. I’m 30 years old and Most recently, I have spoken out, very resolutely, against youth tokenism at the continental body on this front.

I live and work all over the continent including working virtually (which I’ve done for the past decade). I’m now in Johannesburg, based in South Africa amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell us about the work you do and the things you get up to (pre-Covid)

As a millennial, I live and hangout on social media; it’s where I get my news, push critical thought and areas for advocacy. I catch up with youth on the continent everyday: it’s not deliberate, though, we check in as friends and colleagues to collaborate or just have some laughs.

I have recently ventured into being an independent practitioner. I am currently working on a range of global health projects linked to gender equality and HIV, universal health coverage in Africa, youth advocacy and the integration of health care policies and services. The most part of my day is centred on these projects with a range of international organisations, whether it’s calls, report-writing, data analysis, planning, pinning down advocacy, or implementation.

I also try and squeeze in a tonne of writing especially through blogging. I keep myself daily updated with the latest trends in global health. I often serve as an expert in the media and for multiple organisations. So, my days are sometimes showbiz but there is a lot of research and preparation that goes into this.

On the personal front I do cooking, cleaning, household chores, just being human. Total disclosure: I am a soapy addict! I miss Isidingo (already), I still catch 7de Laan and Scandal – they are my downtime.

Every day I dedicate some time to my dreams and ideas, initiatives I am interested in rolling out. I dream big, every single day!

 How has COVID-19 impacted the health sector?

Working in the field of global health, this pandemic has jolted us all into response efforts and doing everything we possibly can: from tracking the research, ensuring messages are translatable, and working with civil society to ensure relief measures are implemented. Global health is directly affected and everything is now centred on COVID-19; for example, our network discussions, our work projects, research articles, even journal calls, are now centred on corona.

At a more operational level, it is difficult to implement or draw attention to any other global health issues, at this time. It is a concern as there are other essential services which must also be delivered, such as antiretrovirals, sexual and reproductive health services. There is some progress in now tying these issues to gender equality and the pandemic.

Personally, the way we work and organise has changed in a heartbeat. Thankfully, I have completed my fieldwork and in-country work on the rest of the continent already, but all facilitation gigs are now cancelled. My scheduled international travel to other countries has been cancelled and even any further data collection is on ice unless it can be done virtually. But we need to now figure out how to reach patients and women, specifically those in rural or remote areas, as we try and push through with ongoing work.

The worrying reality for me as well, is, while I have projects lined up, I wonder what all these developments would mean for those of us who are independents or are self-employed. We are probably set to be the hardest hit.

On the positive front, we have realised new ways of working, more efficient ways are also setting in and this would be an interesting trend to monitor on how the field of global health and experts adapt to these changing times.

What do you think can be done to help the global health sector recover?

As mentioned, on the services front there must be concerted effort towards implementing and strengthening our health systems; this is the only way long-term. Coupled with this, governments must take all emergency measures and response measures possible; essential services cannot suffer. This is a non-negotiable and we all have a responsibility to make sure that services continue.

Many young people in the field of public health are already unemployed; I am worried about graduates falling even further off the radar. We need to find ways to involve them in the COVID-19 response. Perhaps, draw on their expertise immediately, even if it’s in a voluntary capacity.

Civil society is key to the entire response: let’s face it, government is always marred by bureaucracy, in many countries by corruption. I see CSOs continuing with ongoing work but donors should also allow them to direct resources, programming and even hire, to help deal with the COVID-19 response, as well as pushing accountability.

On the patient/citizen front, the South African government is now paying attention to public transport, water and sanitation and housing. It’s a pity it has taken a pandemic to take action but this must be sustained. Long-term, it’s welcome and post the virus, it would aid in relief and recovery. Short-term measures, for example water tanks, must be coupled with long-term water and sanitation infrastructures, otherwise we will have this situation in every pandemic.

Finally, I am penning some thoughts on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement which is meant to be operationalised this year. Africa must get itself into gear to mass produce protective equipment for healthcare workers, given the shortage, this is needed for the response.

As we prepare for life after the lockdown, we are aware that our health system has suffered a blow and more must be done. As Dr Shakira has highlighted, there are things which can be done, from government, to civil society organisations, and citizens can see how they can help with the skills and resources they have. This pandemic is stretching us and needs the entire global community to realise that our survival rests in each others’ hands.

We must do what must be done to make it through – in the bigger scheme of things, what is another two weeks in lockdown?

About the Author:

Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.    

About the STEAM Room

The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated. 

SOCIAL MEDIA – Dr Shakira Choonara:

  • Twitter: @ChoonaraShakira

COVID-19 has made 4IR a reality for all

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Welcome to the STEAM Room. As women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) I thought it would be great to create a space for us to have candid yet insightful and inspirational talks about issues we experience in our respective fields. And here we are!

Many employees have been proposing and even fighting for their employers to adopt policies which allow them to work remotely. However, in most cases this was seen as absurd, despite employees having access to laptops, cell phones and data. But realistically, it was also a trust issue: could employees be trusted to work from home, unattended, out of sight, away from the manager’s watchful eye? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to find out. IT guys (this includes the girls, of course) around the country have been working tirelessly, especially during the days leading up to the lockdown. IT guys had to make sure employees are ‘lockdown ready’, connected to servers, given laptops, bought routers… you know the drill.

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The amazing thing is, we could have done all of this even without COVID-19’S intervention. South Africa has, for the longest time, had good technological infrastructure and resources. Internet banking. Online food orders. Zoom and WhatsApp calls. Google Docs. We’ve been doing this. What’s great is technology is solutions-driven; on 2 April, 30 of the world’s leading digital technology experts gathered in a virtual roundtable to help advance the World Health Organisation’s collaborative response to COVID-19. And much more is being done with technology.

We kick off our COVID-19 themed STEAM Room series with one of our own, Womandla Head of STEAM, a self-confessed nerd who is in the field of technology.

Rumbi

Tell us about yourself

My name is Rumbidzaishe Maisva. I am the Head of STEAM for Womandla Foundation where I forward the agenda of encouraging young girls and women to pursue careers. I am part of a great team that aims to educate and equip communities in STEAM related opportunities. I am based in Cape Town where I am also a Senior Quality Assurance (QA) Automation Engineer at Global Kinetic Software Engineers, a FinTech (Financial Technology) company. At Global Kinetic, I am part of awesome QA and project teams delivering simple and effective solutions to complex problems. Additionally, I am an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation mentor. I am passionate about education and making it accessible to people in underprivileged communities.

How does a day in your life look like (pre-COVID-19)?

A day in my life – well, that depends… It’s constantly changing. I go from being a Mentor in one hour, to strategic planning as a software engineer or as the Head of STEAM, the next. But normally I’m just your nerd next door: working with computers and trying to find ways to make an impact including and outside of that. I get into work in the morning and read an article that’s relevant to me, increasing my knowledge. I then check my meetings for the day, plan my day and aim to achieve my goals for the day. I’m a checklist kind of person and I like ticking my list off. 

How has COVID-19 impacted your industry?

I feel the Software Development industry has been ahead of the curve. I have been working from home once a week for the past year and for most software developers, for even longer. What I do believe has changed, has been the amount of work that people now realise can be automated.

If anything, COVID-19 has acted as an agent for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) at an exponential rate.

On the positive side companies have been able to continue business and not lose revenue even with the current lockdown in place. This will prevent a large number of people being retrenched as a result of the company being in financial distress. I know of a number of companies that have been implementing COVID initiatives to this regard. Also, there is 4IR opportunities for more jobs being created but this will require people to acquire the necessary skills for the new roles.

On the negative side a large number of people might be unemployed if they roles have become automated and no longer require human involvement.

What do you think can be done to help your industry recover; what are some of the practical steps we can take to assist?

Major steps include educating communities on how to acquire the necessary skills that will be essential for their jobs. The IT industry is constantly looking for people and the new opportunities will create even more jobs than we currently have the capacity and the necessary skills set for. We need to have these conversations; government and communities need to find a way to optimise on these new opportunities.

As we get ready to go to emerge out of lockdown, it is then important to look at what these ‘new opportunities’ are and how we can capacitate people, especially the youth, so that they can benefit during what will no doubt be trying times.

About the Author:

Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.    

About The STEAM Room

The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated. 

Ending Period Poverty

Womandla joined forces with FemConnect and Nubia Network to bring a soft launch of the new Healthcare App through the #WeGotUGirl campaign.

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The event was held at the American Corner, Cape Town, in an open dialogue format or rather “Pyjama Party” which addressed feminine healthcare education, menstrual cups courtesy of My Soft Cup, real life experiences and so much more.

We are so honored to have been the beneficiaries of the sanitary towels donated. These will help a great deal in Langa Township where we run our mentorship programme.

#Womandla

#WeGotUGirl

Why is there an A STE(A)M?

IMG-4327The ‘A’ in STEM to STEAM is a global movement. The Arts – humanities, music, language arts, dance, drama, design, etc. have seamlessly collaborated and naturally connected with STEM fields and vice versa. Arts have been seen as social, humanizing, creative and more inclusive concepts. Sciences on the other end of the spectrum have been seen to be exclusive and logical.

STEM and Arts were seen to be mutually exclusive. STEAM addresses the investigation of STEM concepts using more creative processes of problem solving. Incorporating Arts into STEM will not only make the learning and careers more engaging but it also results in more inclusiveness.

STEAM presents an opportunity to spark excitement in learning STEM, improved critical thinking and problem solving.

STEAM addresses the investigation of STEM concepts using more creative processes of problem solving.

The STEAM movement originated at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The STEAM movement has been backed up by Internationally recognised institutes and seems to be making it’s way slowly into Africa. Design thinking is one of the aspects that incorporates Arts in STEM as a process for creative problem solving.

Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education researched the addition of the ‘A’ to STEM subjects as a means of humanizing science and technology-enhanced learning (Ge, Ifenthaler & Spector, 2015).
IMG-4326 If you remember Shuri from the Black Panther movie, she made use of technology in a very creative way.
Shuri was the architect behind Wakanda’s technology and as a scientist and engineer lead the Design Group. Her design ideas for the technologies were innovative with a lot of focus on creative modern aspects.

Collaborations of Arts and STEM are not a new concept, you may already know a few:

  • Da Vinci made use of his biology and civil engineering studies to enhance his artwork.
  • Leah Heiss, Melbourne-based designer and RMIT researcher has developed jewellery to assist diabetics administer their insulin, wearable cardiac monitor necklace, CaT Pin that can detect loneliness and can be customised to the style and aesthetics of the wearer.

So the next time someone says STEAM instead of STEM  it is not because they misspelled or mispronounced.

We as Womandla STEAM are definitely looking to have events incorporating Arts in STEM. Hence, the birth of Womandla STEAM pillar which was previously Womandla STEM.

References:
Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education publication
Leah Heiss website

2015, Emerging technologies for STEAM education : full STEAM ahead. Edited by Ge, Xun, Ifenthaler, Dirk and Spector, J. Michael, Springer, Berlin, Germany.
Forbes November 7, 2019 – When STEM Becomes STEAM We Can Change The Game
2012, Voices from the field: Teachers’ views on the relevance of arts integration. Cambridge, MA: Lesley University. Bellisario, K. & Donovan, L.