The Black Women in Science (BWIS) organisation hosted its first gala dinner on 6 April at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre. The theme of the evening was “The African Element,”arising from the motto of the organisation, which is “in our element.” Special guests from the various national and international scientific and non-scientific organisations, matriculants from Mpumalanga and Limpopo as well as the Black Women in Science members and fellows, were in attendance. FABI Ph.D. candidates Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry and Khumbuzile Bophela attended this inaugural event.

BWIS is a registered non-profit organisation which was founded in 2015 by current CEO, Ms Ndoni Mcunu and co-founder, Ms Mantombi Ngoloyi - PhD students at the University of Witwatersrand and Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, respectively. The organisation aims to increase capacity in the developmental interventions that target young black women scientists and learners. The organisation achieves this by supporting its members in developing research and science conduct, leadership and mentorship skills. It also promotes a culture of pursuing postgraduate studies among black students.

The gala dinner aimed to showcase the various projects carried out by BWIS fellows from Johannesburg and Durban throughout 2018. These projects included both community and business projects that fellows had to invent and provide sustainability plans while highlighting the significance of their projects to South Africa’s economic situation. The evening concluded with an award ceremony to recognise the outstanding work done by the fellows in the different projects (i.e. most innovative project and sustainable project) and the most anticipated award, the fellow of the year.

Membership to the BWIS can be obtained by either becoming its fellow or regular member at no cost. A fellowship member has access to three skills development workshops, i.e. a) scientific writing; b) business skills; and c) research and career preparation. The call for fellowships is announced early in the year on an annual basis. Additionally, a regular member has access to all social events and outreach initiatives organised by BWIS. 

For more information on BWIS visit their website ( or contact them via e-mail (

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Photo 1: Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry and Khumbuzile Bophela

Photo 2: Ndoni Mcunu (BWIS: Founder and CEO) and Mantombi Ngoloyi (BWIS: co-founder)

Photo 3: Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry (FABI, PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology), Elodie Ekoka (PhD student, University of Witwatersrand) and Khumbuzile Bophela (FABI, PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology)

Photo 4: Elodie Ekoka, Mr Mmboneni Muofhe (Deputy Director-General: Technology Innovation at the Department of Science and Technology), Khumbuzile Bophela and Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry

Photo 5: Khumbuzile Bophela, Ndoni Mcunu, Elodie Ekoka and Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry

Photo 6: Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Morongwa Khokhololo (BSc student at the University of Limpopo), Elodie Ekoka and Khumbuzile Bophela