UJ Professor of Epidemiology honoured as Queen of Research, paving new path for SA/Ghana collaborations


UJ Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Professor Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya has received royal recognition, following her Coronation as Queen of Research by Ghanaian Abeadze Traditional Council on Tuesday, 23 August 2022. The royal Ghanaian coronation ceremony, coincided with the Paramount Chief’s Annual Event, which followed the launch of the Pan African Centre for Epidemics Research (PACER) in Johannesburg on Monday, 22 August 2022. Phaswana-Mafuya also serves as a Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Extra Mural Unit, a position she has held since early 2022.

Prof Phaswana-Mafuya’s arrival in Ghana with a UJ delegation was met with pomp and ceremony. The high spirited and colourful five-day ceremony commenced with the swearing of pledge of allegiance to Ghanian Abeadze Dominase Traditional Kingdom and His Majesty, Nana Daasbre Kwebu Ewusi VII. The coronation is part of the week-long private royal ceremonies which will culminate in an initiation into the role. The events include visits to the local village, inspirational talks and mentorship to women, and village tours. Other activities include a visit to the royal palace, participation in the royal parade as well as public introduction to the people of Ghana on 27 August at the Abeadze Dominase Durbar Grounds, Cape Coast, Ghana.

The events will be attended by representatives from Ghanaian institutions, which Prof Phaswana-Mafuya has collaborated with, such as the Ghana AIDS Commission, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and SAMRC. Also in attendance will be the South African Medical Research Council and University of Johannesburg; with words of support received from the Higher Health, Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF), National Research Foundation (NRF), North-West University and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

In a statement by the Paramount Chief/President of the Abeadze Dominase Traditional Kingdom, Daasbre Kwebu Ewusi VII, Prof Phaswana-Mafuya is described as one of Africa’s most celebrated icons of research in science, research mentor and role model who has made outstanding contributions in the field. Her contribution and achievements in the field of science has touched many lives, especially the next generation of women researchers. Paramount Chief/President Kwebu Ewusi VII, said the decision to honour Prof Phaswana-Mafuya by installing her as Her Majesty Queen of Research is supported by her impactful research contributions in fighting pandemics such as HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 which have had devastating impact on the African continent.

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“Her tireless efforts to conduct policy-driven, development-orientated, relevant, responsive, and timely epidemiological and public health research that seek to improve health outcomes and quality of life for all equitably are being recognized through this coronation. We believe that this coronation will mark the beginning of a new era that will elevate Prof Phaswana-Mafuya to higher levels of service to humanity (servant leadership),” said the Paramount Chief/President.

Says Prof Phaswana-Mafuya: “I am honoured to have received this prestigious recognition. The appointment by the traditional authority cements SA-Ghana diplomatic ties and allows for strengthening of research collaborations in public health, epidemics and indigenous knowledge and cultural influence in health education. As I pledge my allegiance to the Abeadze Traditional Kingdom, I aim to influence greater relations to further PACER’s intracontinental research agenda, which is underpinned by scientific excellence, public health significance, multi/inter-disciplinarity, innovativeness, local relevance as well as global competitiveness and impact.”

The recognition and bestowal of the title as Queen of Research is non-competitive and is at the discretion of the traditional authority to bestow a royal honour in recognition of contributions made. The Abeadze Traditional Council seeks to inspire more women, given the limited number of women in science on the continent.

UJ Executive Dean: Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof Sehaam Khan, said the announcement is welcomed and gives South African women inspiration, power to women struggles, in particular Gender Based Violence (GBV). As we celebrate Women’s Month, Prof Phaswana-Mafuya’s recognition as Ghanian Queen of Research is an inspiration to South African citizens and challenges women to rise to leadership positions, to take the lead in STEM and gives encouragement to SA youth who continue to face unemployment and increased socio-economic challenges.

Says Prof Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor:Research and Internationalisation: “Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya was headhunted and appointed as a professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UJ in December 2020. Within a short space of time, she has made a huge and unique contribution towards research and global engagement, within the Faculty of Health Sciences and also, broadly, in South Africa. We are honoured, through her recognition, in Ghana; and celebrate the coronation of Prof Phaswana-Mafuya as the Queen of Research by the Abeadze Dominase Traditional Kingdom. We thank, in particular, the Omanhen for the stewardship and extend our congratulations to Prof Refilwe Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya.”

Related: UJ Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya, one of four Black African researchers to lead the newly established SAMRC Extramural Units



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