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GLAMOUR Women In Charge: Meet Senamile Masango

The trailblazing nuclear physicist and businesswoman hails from KwaNongoma, a deep rural area in KwaZulu-Natal. She’s also a world energy leader, and the first African woman to be part of an African led experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Senamile was invited to attend the Women in Science event on Women’s Day hosted by the US embassy, where the USA state secretary was also in attendance. She took to the podium to share about the nuclear science research she did while she was a postgraduate student at University of the Western Cape.

Driven by innovation, development, and achieving high-level energy efficiency - Senamile is a director at Mphathisithele Consultancy (PTY). She wants to achieve clean solutions for a better future and specialize in energy consulting, mostly in project development. And was recently awarded the Positive Role Model Award at The Accenture 10th Gender Mainstreaming Awards under the Western cape region. The awards took place on 22 July 2022 in Cape Town.

The Gender Mainstreaming Awards were created by Business Engage to promote private sector support for achieving more significant representation of women in African business.

Image: Supplied

Glamour: You’ve achieved so much at such a young age. What sparked your interest in the sciences?

Senamile: It started at Mlokothwa high school in kwaNongoma (I was 11 years old) where our geography teacher Mr Ziqubu introduced us to astronauts. I was so fascinated to learn that there are people who can leave this dimension and go to the moon and I also learnt that no one in Africa has ever travelled into space, so this is where it started and I fell in love with science.

I’ve always wanted to make history as the first African woman to travel to space, and I was so hurt when Mark Shuttleworth beat me up to it. Hopefully, one day I will meet Mark and tell him in person but I am also happy for him and his achievements, he has done very well.

Glamour: What’s your take on representation in the sciences?

Senamile: There is a problem with the lack of engineers and scientists. Concern has been raised about the under-representation of women in science and engineering, where the percentage of female graduates in these fields is still below 20% in many nations.

I think that progress in the fields of science, engineering, and technology could hasten the creation of jobs, the improvement of society, and the urgent demand for scarce skills. Any business would benefit from having more women working in science and engineering.

The position of women in society is also essential for development. Since women make up the majority of the agricultural labour force and set the standards for hygiene and health, they have the greatest impact on the next generation. You educate the next generation by educating women.

Girls in Africa should be encouraged to take science subjects; not only those girls who might pursue a scientific or technological career but just be able to apply scientific concepts in their daily lives.

Taking science subjects should not only be seen as a vocation but as a means to develop the scientific and technological culture necessary for development.

Glamour: Let’s talk about what your recent award means to you and how this impacts the energy sector?

Senamile: It is the highest honour to be referred to as a positive role model, but it is also not easy because you can't disappoint all the young people who look up to you. Given the under-representation of women in the energy industry, this award will have a significant impact on it by encouraging more women to participate in the energy sector.

Glamour: Please talk us through your role at the Women in Energy Conference?

Senamile: The Women in Energy Conference was conceptualized by the Senamile Masango Foundation and will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton on August 29, 2022. The conference will take place against the backdrop of South Africa's growing energy shortages, which are a significant barrier to the nation's economic development.

The conference objectives include bringing together influential female energy players, including representatives of the South African government and local stakeholders, to deliver keynote addresses on doable solutions that can be put into practice in South Africa in light of the "Just Energy transition."

The intention is to create a forum where women working in the energy sector can talk about the difficulties they are currently facing in the nation's manufacturing sector as well as how they are resolving the energy crisis (using alternative fuels, renewable energy, etc.) And the platform was created to showcase female researchers and their research initiatives that will aid in the development of a comprehensive energy solution.

Through my foundation, I aim to inspire female energy industry workers to unite in the fight against energy poverty, which disproportionately affects women, especially those residing in impoverished townships and rural areas. Without sponsors, organizing this conference has not been simple, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. I was willing to take this risk because I am a strong advocate for women, and if I don't do it, who will?

Glamour: How would you describe your journey as a pioneer and authority in the science space?

It was a difficult journey. I've experienced all kinds of difficulties, but what has kept me going is my relationship with God. I know that He won't give me more than I can handle because He has bigger plans for my life. I am naturally stubborn, so I never think about anything but the end result. We all have different journeys and different stories, so I don't compare my life to anyone else's. When I fail, I acknowledge it and take the lessons from it.

Glamour: Naturally, what type of conversations do you gravitate towards, and why?

Senamile: I prefer conversations about current events in the energy sector because they keep me up to date with what's happening in the industry and teach me about the newest trends.

Glamour: You boast an impressive resume and your story is quite inspirational. What’s your message to women who aspire to break boundaries and stereotypes but don’t necessarily see a way of their current circumstances?

Senamile: My advice to young women who would like to pursue a career in science; Do it, and love it, if you're drawn to it. Keep your mind open, learn something new every day. Work hard always, always have a willing heart to learn and admit where you don’t know. Believe in yourself. Science is not easy you must be motivated all the times, have a mentor and don't give up.

Glamour: What does your passion for education speak to and how can we tackle the unemployment issue collectively?

Senamile: My strong conviction that every child should have access to a quality education has guided me throughout my life. Life is changed by education. I am aware that it altered mine. The transformative potential of a top-notch education should not be denied to any child. By putting money into scientific research and development, which guarantees sustainability, we can address the problem of unemployment.

Glamour: What would you attribute your success and unrelenting approach to?

Senamile: I have unrelenting ambition, fearless confidence, and I am flexible but also have a goal-oriented mindset. My objectives are extremely important to me, and I am fully committed to seeing them through. I am aware that progress can only be made through passion, and success will eventually follow.

Glamour: What’s your approach to wellness and self-care and how important is it to you?

Senamile: I work out five times per week. It is crucial to me that I practice self-care because it has been clinically shown to lessen or completely eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, enhance focus, lessen irritability and anger, and increase happiness.

Glamour: What does Women’s Month mean to you?

Senamile: For me, it's a day to celebrate women's accomplishments as well as to recognize and honour the contributions that women make to society every day.

Glamour: What’s your message for Women’s Month?

Senamile: The struggle is real out there, don’t give up and be your sister’s keeper!

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