Where to now?

It is my great pleasure to announce that I passed my MSc degree and will be graduating next year in May :-D. Pretty cool right? Having worked so much to acquire such a milestone has helped me to appreciate the work that goes in having a Master’s degree. In fact, it has shown me that people who have a Master’s degree should be treated with respect and that this degree should not be seen as a pit-stop towards getting the big one (PhD).

Talking about a PhD, whilst I was waiting for my MSc results, I had enough time to think about my PhD aspirations, my concept and whether having a PhD would have any positive contribution towards where I want to be in the next 5 years. To be honest, I still have no tangible solution towards this conundrum that I call my future. However, there is no debate that I one day want to be a young Dr Mabusela.

I would like to believe that I still have a lot that I can contribute towards the poultry nutrition field and I also believe that going on to do my PhD would provide that platform to contribute.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a blog about how research can be used as a tool to eradicate food insecurity in our country. This is what I want to do with my PhD, I want to be able to use it as a tool to improve the socio-economic status of South Africa through the development of effective agricultural practices. I want to look back in the next 10 years and feel like my PhD made a monumental contribution to not only the research field but also the poultry production value chain.

As I cogitate on my future prospects, I think about various debates that people often have with regards to the approach needed when looking to pursue a PhD. Some people have argued that going into industry and giving your PhD aspirations a break could possibly offer more insight with regards to developing a novel concept. They believe that understanding all the finer details of the poultry value chain would help understand fully the problems as well the type of research questions to ask when conducting your PhD trials.

For a greater part, I agree with that logic but however, it contradicts my main belief. I believe that our life is like a timeline and that everything has its own place in that timeline. If not done at the right time, then the chances of that working out are reduced exponentially, leading to a rip in the time and space continuum.  This fits in particularly well with the contribution that I think having a PhD would have towards my life, 5 years from now. If I do not continue with my PhD, then I might not get to where I want to be. Granted, I don’t know where that will be, but having a PhD at that time will assist me to access an array of careers.

From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/o/og_mandino.html
From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/o/og_mandino.html

Talking about confusion and future aspiration, so many people aren’t where they would like to be in life; many religious individuals are starting to believe that maybe God has turned his back on them. Whether that be true or false but I believe that just like seeds in the South African dry soils, we all have roles that we have to play in order to make sure that we have a good harvest in the following year. The problem is that, just like the seeds in the dry soils, greater forces will only allow us to sprout and grow into awesome harvests when the environment is conducive for that growth. The wait might appear to be counter-revolutionary but sprouting at the wrong time will most certainly lead to destruction. So in a seed shell, waiting, and controlling things you can control is the answer and have faith that when the time is right, greater forces will play their part.

The take home message is that things will happen when they happen and that’s something we have no control over. The best you can do is play your part, till those dry soils, plant those seeds and hope and pray that you’ve done enough to ensure that you get a good crop when the good rains come.

Celebrating women past women’s month…

National Women’s Day is a South African public holiday celebrated annually on the 9th of August. The day celebrates the 1956 march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. This march for me optimises the courage, strength and determination that women possess; it also demonstrates the monumental role that women have played and continue to play in transforming South Africa to what it is today.

Such extraordinary beings need to be celebrated every day of every year and not on one special day and then forgotten.

Whether we like it or not, our parents lived in a patriarchal society that was previously lead to believe that men were more superior to women. However, we are slowly transitioning into a society that believes and treats men and women equally. But should it? In the past, women weren’t afforded a lot of opportunities i.e. education, corporate work, etc. As a matter of fact, an argument can be laid that it is still the case in some countries, including South Africa.

This reminds me of a Sotho friend of mine who asked an interesting question, one that I couldn’t answer with much conviction. He asked if “we” as Xhosa people still practise the custom of “Ukuthwala”. This is when a young girl is taken or abducted by a man and he takes her to his home. He then sends message to the girl’s family that he would like to marry her. This in my opinion is a barbaric act that qualifies as kidnapping and later on statutory rape. As far as I know, this isn’t happening anymore and I thank God for that; this just reminds me of the hardship that women have had and still continue to endure in the hands of men. In all fairness I guess, they too (men) were brought into a society that treats women like objects for men’s entertainment. This does not qualify as an excuse because there will forever be a difference between right and wrong!

The previous and perhaps current mistreatment of women has prompted for emancipation and righting of previous wrongs. This however poses a question, is it possible to fix the ills of the past? If yes, then can this be done without infringing or walking all over the rights of men?

Being a previously disadvantaged race in South Africa, I would like to think I understand emancipation a little bit. I think that perhaps the road to establishing equal playing ground in the research field should start with emancipation, but unlike forcing women to conform to men’s standards, this would create a medium where women can establish themselves in the work/research field. There’s no doubt that this would be deemed unfair to men who will who may feel forced to take the back seat with regards to research funding and capacity development, but in the long run it will be worth it for everyone.

 

…but before that happens, I believe men need to be aware of their sins and atone. Some of the sexism and gender discrimination that we are fighting against is inherent of societal norms in the name of culture and tradition. Examples of this would be for a man in the African culture being allowed to take more than one wife or in other cultures where women cannot go to school, work or even drive a car. We cannot try to eradicate any form of sexism or discrimination if we don’t first change our traditions and cultures that are inherently sexist and discriminatory in nature.

Trying to treat women like men according to me is still not enough, in fact it changes nothing. It changes nothing because women in this regard are still being forced to conform and leave up to the standards of men, as opposed to them being allowed to form their own identity and coexist with men in society as equals. We can never take away the fact that men and women are different and trying to compare or treat them the same way would be a travesty to feminism or women’s rights.

I hope that one day we can live in a society that embraces women and men as dynamic equals; Instead of advocating for the world to treat women like men. A society that embraces gender differences, as well as the benefits that those differences bring towards research findings and life in general. Being friends with women who passed their MSc degrees with cum laude honours and having an exceptional supervisor who happens to be a woman, has shown me that women can perform and excel in science – the idea that there is a biological reason why women can’t exceed is just a cultural bias.

My conclusion is that men and women are different and they should be treated as such. The mistake would be for one gender to assume dominance over the other. Our differences are what make us humans special, at the end of the day that’s what we are, HUMANS!