Professor Leila Patel’s social welfare research recognised
Durban - PROFESSOR Leila Patel has been awarded a gold medal for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.
The award was presented by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) virtually last week.
Patel is the research chairperson in welfare and social policy and professor of social work at the Department of Science and Innovations.
She previously won the Woman in Society Award and the Katherine A Kendall Memorial Award.
“Awards like these and others I have been honoured with over the years are obviously personally and professionally very humbling,” said Patel, of Johannesburg.
“Importantly, an award like ASSAf’s, which specifically recognises how the sort of research work I do positively affects society at large, adds to the visibility of welfare and social work.”
She said that social welfare as a field of social enquiry was undervalued in the academy and in society.
“Although this is beginning to change, it is my hope that this award can in some way make visible the importance of investing in growing research capability, and in the search for evidence-based solutions that connect with people’s real-life experiences and how they go about managing their lives.”
Patel said she always had a desire to make a difference in people’s lives and therefore chose to do social work.
In a values-based profession committed to social justice, she hopes to achieve this through research and finding evidence-based solutions to issues including hunger, poverty and inequality.
“My research focuses on finding innovative solutions that could improve child and family well-being, including solutions to the challenges young people face, such as youth employment.”
Patel said an ideal future in the fields of social development and welfare would be one where social workers and welfare organisations were properly equipped and funded to perform their work; and that they were valued by society for doing so.
“They are at the front line of building a more caring society, cohesive communities and families, who are central to building a society where all are able to fare well and achieve their aspirations.”
She is the professor of social development studies at the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg.
Patel also supervises a number of postgraduate students and teaches a Master’s module on social policy and development.
Apart from her career, Patel is a married mother of two daughters, both of whom are lawyers, and a grandmother of two boys.
“They followed in their father’s footsteps, as he too is a lawyer and a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein.
In her spare time, Patel enjoys reading novels, walking and spending time with family and friends.
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, the vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, was another recipient of the ASSAf award.
He is an engineer and artificial intelligence professor.
Marwala was recognised for his contribution to the development of artiiificial intelligence and its applications at the highest academic levels of research and postgraduate supervision.