ASSAf Inclusivity Initiative: Gender Equity And Persons With Disabilities

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), cordially invite you to the launch of the ASSAf Inclusivity Initiative: Gender Equity And Persons With Disabilities.

Date:   7 December 2023
15:30 17:00
Venue:   CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria
RSVP:   Click here to register


The Academy of Science of South Africa’s Transformation Strategy calls for removal of barriers to equal participation in the science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem as well as widening access to scientific information. Gender and race have been the forefront variables due to our country’s history, however,  ASSAf has incorporated disability barriers (inclusive of mental disabilities) as part of the key component in enhancing full societal participation in STI. The session will launch the ASSAf Inclusivity Initiative on Gender Equity and Persons with Disabilities which aims to enhance inclusive participation in STI and foster partnerships to advance the agenda, in line with the objectives of the DSI Decadal Plan in STI. Through this initiative ASSAf further aims to foster empowerment and amplify the voices of persons with disabilities, particularly by focusing on innovation as a tool for inclusivity.  Discussions at the launch will address the barriers that prevent women and persons with disabilities from fully participating in the national system of innovation (NSI)  and more importantly focus on recommendations for solutions to removing barriers that hinder wide participation by persons with disabilities, and how innovation can be a tool to enhance equity.


15:3015:35  Welcome Remarks: Prof Olubakula Babalola, North-West University  

15:35 15:55  Overview of inclusivity initiative                

15:55 16:35   Panel discussion:

  • Ms Dineo Mmako, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities
  • Mr Mark Bannister, Department of Water and Sanitation
  • Ms Bongiwe Mkhithika, Department of Science and Innovation
  • Mr Gerhard Coetzee, INVEN-D

16:35 16:50    Q&A: Facilitated by Prof Olubakula Babalola 

16:50 16:55    Closing remarks:   

16:55 17:00     Session closure: Prof Olubakula Babalola


Olubukola Oluranti Babalola, the Vice-President of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and Vice-President of the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) (Africa region), is an NRF-rated scientist, an MBA graduate, a Research Director and Principal Investigator at North-West University. After a PhD with a Fellowship from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and OWSD, she had postdoctoral experiences at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. She has over 21 years of experience focusing on rhizosphere metagenomics. She is a member of many editorial boards and an International Advisor to several others. Olubukola has completed the supervision of 31 doctoral fellows, 24 masters, and numerous Honors students. Her international experience spans the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. She enjoys research grants and international partnerships across the globe. Olubukola has ~ 350 publications, an H-index of 60, with over 17,700 citations. Her effort has received many awards, including being the finalist in GenderInSite 2020 and Clarivate highly cited research top 1% for the field year 2022. Her recent Springer book is “Food Security and Safety: Africa’s Perspective.” Olubukola is #1 in Africa for Soil Science and Plant Nutrition.


Dineo Mmako holds the position of Acting Deputy Director General responsible for Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Coordination, her key position is Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation in the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD). She is the Commissioner of the Commission for Employment Equity representing the government sector. She has held various positions in the Presidency and Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation including Programme manager for the Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring (FSDM), Information Communication Technology Project Manager, Business analyst and Government systems administrator. She has a Master’s Degree in Management: Public sector monitoring and evaluation; a Bachelors of Science and a number of Postgraduate certificates qualifications. She has more than 15 years of experience in data management and analysis, monitoring and evaluation; as well as coordination and facilitation of government programmes and interventions.

Mark Bannister is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers; Pr Eng. Engineering Council of SA, and Senior Fellow of the Water Institute of South Africa. He has 32 years of working experience: 13 years as Chief Engineer at the Department of Water and Sanitation, 8 years in the NGO sector (Mvula Trust, South Africa as Regional Manager of Limpopo Province),  8 years in Water Utilities (Umgeni Water, South Africa, Severn Trent Water and Welsh Water in the UK) , 3 years in the private sector (ECI Development Consultants. He is also an author of the book “Eyes Wide Open”.  

Bongiwe Cordelia Mkhithika is currently a PhD candidate at Da Vinci Institute looking at Science Technology and Innovation policy coordination and coherence investigating the impact of poor coordination and incoherent implementation of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy on service delivery from a South African perspective. Ms. Mkhithika is a mentor, life coach and a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner. Bongiwe’s mission is to enlighten, empower, inspire and motivate others particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She joined the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in 2006 and is responsible for Research and Development Planning, Science and Technology Investment, Stakeholder Management, establishment and maintenance of inter-governmental relationships, policy and strategy development and analysis, provides support to sector-specific departments to ensure that they make substantial investments on Research and Development (R&D) as well as technologies and infrastructure. She has been instrumental in coordinating the alignment of DSI’s policies with that of other government departments creating an enabling environment for joint implementation of government initiatives. Bongiwe provided secretariat support to the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster of government and its Project Management Unit (PMU), Cabinet and its Committees coordinating the implementation of the Nine Point Plan in pursuit of Vision 2030, the National Development Plan (NDP) of government. Bongiwe is a thought leader, researcher and an author, she has contributed inputs towards the governance and coordination chapter of the 2019 White Paper on Science Technology and Innovation and a sole chapter 2 author of the 2020 Science, Technology and Innovation Decadal Plan.

Gerhard Coetzee is a passionate innovator with a deep-rooted appreciation for craftsmanship. His journey began with a Fitter and Turner trade certificate in 2003, where he honed my technical skills and developed a keen eye for precision. In 2017, he reached a significant milestone by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Universal Design, a field that resonates with his commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. He is Director and Founder at INVEN-D, a cutting-edge innovation company that’s redefining the way we approach design. INVEN-D is at the forefront of creating ground-breaking solutions, with a strong emphasis on Universal Design. INVEN-D’s mission is to make the world a more inclusive and accessible place for all.