Ms Joan Akob at the SA Diaspora Women’s Award ceremony.

Award for UKZN Dietetics PhD Candidate

A registered dietician, PhD candidate and part-time lecturer in Dietetics and Human Nutrition at UKZN, Ms Joan Akob has received an award for Emerging Scientists from the Dynamic Ladyz (DL) Network.

The network – which hosts a South African Diaspora Women’s Award ceremony annually as part of its efforts to work towards socio-economic empowerment of African migrant women living in South Africa – is a registered non-profit organisation that promotes socio-economic empowerment of African migrant women living in South Africa and social cohesion between non-South African women and South African women.

It offers relevant support to African migrants, especially women living in South Africa, to achieve holistic success that will enable them to be socially relevant to their immediate society. Founded in 2007 by Black foreign women living in South Africa, the NPO works with both African women living in South Africa and South African women by creating platforms and opportunities for engagement and skills development in relevant areas of growth and development.

The annual awards ceremony celebrates the achievements of women from the diaspora living in South Africa, acknowledging the impact these women have on society.

In 2019, there were 28 nominees from across the country in categories including Women in Science, Emerging Scientist, Young Entrepreneur, Women in Social Enterprise, Business, Finance, and Education.

The selection process involved a presentation to a judging panel and an interview. The main judge was author and speaker Ms Beatrice Achaleke, who is the CEO of Diversity Leadership, Manager of the European Diversity and Inclusion Congress, and the first Black woman to stand for parliamentary elections in Austria.

‘It’s extremely humbling to get diaspora recognition among such phenomenal women,’ said Akob, who was inspired by her fellow award-winners and their stories.

‘Winning the award for the emerging scientist at 24-years-old reassured me that I am on the right path to creating the impact I seek on this continent,’ said Akob. ‘This win is not just for me, it is for all the young people out there genuinely working hard to secure a bright future.’

Originally from Cameroon, she came to South Africa in 2007 with the aim of doing her best at everything she attempted, spurred on by the example set by her parents. Akob was crowned Miss Cameroon South Africa 2016 in a pageant that advocated for social cohesion.

She completed her Master’s in Dietetics degree cum laude, and is now doing PhD research that involves the development of an Infant Figure Rating Scale for use in assessing maternal perceptions of and satisfaction with infant nutritional status. She also worked as a demonstrator for a third-year module in dietetics, and is a part-time lecturer of a first-year module in the BSc Dietetics degree.

Outside of academia, Akob works with a group of doctors based in Cameroon to develop a digital application called Mobile Technology for Hypertension Prevention in Africa (M-Thypa) to aid in treating and managing hypertension. The app will link doctors and health professionals – such as dieticians – to patients especially in rural areas, reduce waiting hours at clinics and ensure patients can still receive medical treatment remotely.

Akob, who hopes to become an infant nutrition researcher, thanked God for bringing her this far.

‘Without God’s guidance and my parents’ tremendous support, I would not be where I am today,’ said Akob. ‘I would also love to thank my supervisor Dr Suna Kassier, who has greatly contributed to my successes.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied