Yiayia Roula - always by my side

  If anybody asked me until now, how I would describe my Yiayia Roula, I would respond “katsarida” (cockroach). To which, everyone looked disgusted and with a question mark on their face. The explanation is simple: I read somewhere that in a global nuclear disaster the only creatures that would survive would be the cockroaches…and my Yiayia! It was a joke clearly with a dose of pride about the strength and calibre of this woman. Trust her, thus, to survive 2020; one of the most difficult years of modern humankind and say goodbye to us the third day of the new year. My relationship with her was in a way separated in three periods: my childhood years up to my parents’ separation when I was 5 years old, the years that I was at school and she was in South Africa, and the last 14 years that we have both been in South Africa. Or in other words: Roula and little Roulitsa; Roula without Roula; and Roula and Roula periods.   Roula and little Roulitsa She was my caregiver and althoug

Holidaying in 2020 - lessons from a wave

  This year's holidays for our family were interesting, different and once in a lifetime like I guess most of the experiences we had this year, right? Our holidays:            smelled of hand sanitizer; had a view of forms and thermometers; felt like a long-distance, a social distance; sounded like the covid numbers on the radio; had a sour taste that the world is not going to be the same before. But we were together, the four of us against the world.... During lockdown this year, we got to spend more time with our kids and with each other. It was all, however, within the stress of everyday life, within crisis management conditions, within the fear of the unknown that was unfolding slowly day by day.  This year gave me the gift of re-evaluating my desires, needs and priorities (we were among the lucky ones). These holidays were the closing of the "deal". We saw each other not as we do daily but as who we really are. We enjoyed life's small things, that are not small a

National Young Academies of Science: Towards a mature and integrated scientist

Where do I fit in in the discussion about Young Academies of Science, leadership and career development?  So, I am a member of the South African Young Academy of Science ( SAYAS ) – outgoing co-chair, a member of the Global Young Academy ( GYA ), former co-leader of the women in Science working group and also a fellow of the Africa Science Leadership Programme ( ASLP ).  Does anybody count the acronyms? Hehe In a variety of different discussions within this year, I made a statement paraphrasing the one by US President Kennedy “Ask not what the Young Academy of Science can do for you, but what you can do for the Young Academy of Science”. By this statement, I am pointing out an interesting phenomenon with the organisations I am involved in: the more you give the more you take. So let me take the discussion a step back…. In 2017, the Dean of my Faculty asked me to apply to become a member at SAYAS. Being in social sciences, economics, I was not even sure of what exactly that meant, but

My South Africa

  MySouthAfrica is the one that smiles with the eyes – even behind the mask. MySouthAfrica  is the one that says Dumela or Good morning or any other greeting – the language does not matter, the well-meant wish does. MySouthAfrica  is the one that sings in the taxi stop. MySouthAfrica  is the one that cheers you when they see you struggling in the uphill (literally and metaphorically). MySouthAfrica  is the one that is in pain, that “bleeds” right and left but we have overcome worse, we will do it again. MySouthAfrica  is sunshine in the winter and a cool summer storm. MySouthAfrica  is not a rainbow or black and white; it is more than that, it is all the colours and shades to create the most amazing pictures of the world around us.  MySouthAfrica is the definition of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" (Aristotle).    MySouthAfrica  shares. MySouthAfrica  cares. MySouthAfrica  hopes. MySouthAfrica  will bounce back.

One month #stayhome thoughts

A month (and a day) ago, on a Sunday evening we heard President Ramaphosa announcing that the coming Thursday the country is entering a 21-day period of lockdown – to be later expanded with extra two weeks. That Monday, our family decided to #stayhome – it is 30 days today, a full month! Overall, our family has dealt with the situation with positive energy, although not all the days are as if out of a TV commercial. We don’t laugh the whole time, although we try. We don’t cuddle the whole time, although we want. We don’t sing and dance, although the boys have the energy to do so. But as a family, we do many things together; we value the family meals and discussions, we read books laying in one bed, we watch movies holding hugs, we work productively so that we play afterwards, and we fight and makeup. Most of all, this lockdown gave us more time to think – slow thinking though, not the one that is compulsory for work purposes. Here, I am sharing four of the recurring thoughts

UN Science and Peace Week: The role of African women in the development of the continent

Speech at the UN Science and Peace Week Inaugural Conference Pretoria, 12 November 2019 One of the 2019 Nobel prize winners in economics, Prof Esther Duflo, wrote one of her most famous papers – or maybe just one of MY favourite ones in 2012 in the Journal of Economic literature explaining the bidirectional linkage between women empowerment and economic development.  She defined “women empowerment” as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development—in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation. In one direction, development alone can play a major role in driving down inequality between men and women; in the other direction, continuing discrimination against women can, as Sen has forcefully argued, hinder development. Empowerment can, in other words, accelerate development. Policymakers and social scientists have tended to focus on one or the other of these two relationships. Those focusing on the

Changing the world by changing people, especially our boys

A few days ago I was invited at a Women’s day event at Future Africa, where one of the questions posed as conversation starter was to discuss which moments or events in our lives were pivotal to our career thus far. I was making my notes and as I was going deep into a self-reflection and evaluation of my career thus far, I thought “my kids”. Now most women that became mothers will attest to the fact that having kids contributes to the need for more hours in a single day, to the juggle of many more things on your to-do list and in general, to the feeling of guilt every single minute of the day. My response, however, was less driven by everyday challenges: having kids made me realise that they are the future of this world so I have to make sure that the world they grow up into is a better version of the current one. My aspiration for the future and in a sense a motto for my life purpose is to change the world by changing the people . Hence, all my activities, all my efforts,