Mandela-Rhodes Scholarship Winner Wants to Work for the Benefit of WomenHumanities

Ms Pilela Majokweni in the field interviewing a farmer in Msinga.Ms Pilela Majokweni in the field interviewing a farmer in Msinga.

UKZN master’s student, Ms Pilela Majokweni, plans to use the opportunities provided through her Mandela-Rhodes Scholarship to contribute to the empowerment and education of women in Africa, particularly female small-holder farmers and children.

Majokweni, who is studying Agricultural Economics in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), is originally from the Eastern Cape where she completed her schooling at Phandulwazi Agricultural High School in Alice, being named Scholar of the Year.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Fort Hare (UFH) but chose UKZN for postgraduate studies because of its strong ratings in agricultural research.

Her master’s research, supervised by Dr Lloyd Baiyegunhi and Dr Stuart Ferrer, is an impact assessment of institutional support on household agricultural productivity with her research focused on small-scale growers in the rural Msinga area of KwaZulu-Natal.

Majokweni is among just 50 students - there were more than 5 000 applicants - from around Africa who received this scholarship. The application process is demanding and rewards those with proven exceptional leadership abilities and academic excellence, aiming to contribute towards the prosperity of their continent.

Majokweni views the accolade not only as an honour but also as a bestowal of a commitment to Africa.

She has not only been focusing on research but has also been working to establish a branch of the United Nations-affiliated Junior Chamber International (JCI) at UKZN, which is expected to launch soon. A pilot project of this group is to work with a Pietermaritzburg school to launch a Junior Apprentice Inspire Foundation Group in Africa - something which is already operating in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng - to help curb youth unemployment by exposing young people to investors and opportunities.

This year, Majokweni also represented UKZN at Wits as a member of the Chief Adjudication Panel at an open debate competition, Jozi Rumble. She also took part in the Student Case Competition at the annual Agbiz Congress.

Majokweni shows no signs of slowing down in achieving her goals, and as one of five daughters of a single mother, is particularly passionate about female development, and about instilling a sense of worth and confidence in young girls through education and extramural activities.

‘I believe that agriculture and empowering women are very strong vehicles in developing Africa, and I want to use my life making a change in those areas.’

Christine Cuénod