Picture: Supplied.

Nairobi - It was a proud moment for the country as eight young female South African scientists were among 14 researchers awarded fellowships by the L'Oréal Foundation. 

The 14 young women were awarded research grants at the Sub-Saharan Africa Fellowship programme's ninth ceremony in Nairobi Kenya on December 6. 

The 14 fellows – 12 doctoral and 2 post-doctoral – were drawn from five sub-Saharan Africa countries (Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria) and were selected for the scientific excellence of their work from more than 480 applicants by a jury of independent experts.

The eight from SA are: Takalani Cele from Unisa; Dr. Marilize Everts, Andrea Wilson and Madelien Wooding, all from the University of Pretoria; Charlene Goosen and Shalena Naidoo, from Stellenbosch University; Lerato Hlaka from the University of Cape Town and Harshna Jivan from the University of Witwatersrand.

The remaining six winners are from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Mauritius.

Speaking of the programme was executive vice-President of the L’Oréal Foundation Alexandra Palt, who said, “the world needs science, and science needs women: nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in African countries, which face significant challenges including climate change, access to energy or food security. 

"Science and technology are key to addressing these challenges, and this will not be possible without women. Their talents and perspectives enrich relevant research."

She also spoke of the decision to host the programme in Nairobi this year, saying, "after eight editions in South Africa, we decided to host our ceremony in Nairobi to reinforce our commitment to giving all Sub-Saharan African women scientists an opportunity”.

Palt also announced that the programme would be split into two, with one local programme focusing on South Africa and another one focusing on the pan-African region in 2019. 

Additional and increased fellowships will be provided to the pan-African programme.

In 2010, L'Oréal and UNESCO partnered to start the For Women in Science Regional Fellowships, which incorporates the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa Fellowship programme. 

The objective of the regional fellowships is to bring support to young women pursuing scientific careers in dozens of countries throughout the world where L’Oréal does not have a subsidiary. The Sub-Saharan Africa regional programme covers 49 countries.

Each year, the programme honours five international laureates, each representing a region of the world, as well as more than 290 young women researchers who benefit from a research and training grant.