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Fighting for the economic rights of South Africa’s women

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By Rozanne Engel

Dr Nthabiseng Moleko is used to wearing many hats. She is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, a poet, an author and serves as a commissioner on the Commission on Gender Equality.

Despite being a very busy woman, Moleko is on a mission to alleviate poverty and fight for the economic rights of women in South Africa.

Moleko shares some insights on her academic journey and the importance of finding a research area that complements one’s passion.

Tell us more about your research

My research is primarily focused on pension funds, savings and institutions in capital markets, with an emphasis on the implications of savings and capital markets for growth in the economy.

The research I undertook sought to empirically investigate the effect of pension assets and their transmission to growth in the South African economy.

I also undertook research looking at increasing the participation of women in the economy, with a focus on the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics sphere, artisans and manufacturing.

In addition, I assessed the monitoring tools in the national gender machinery. This was done for a South African Board for People Practices publication that focused on the role of women at work and in the economy.

Why or how did you become interested in this specific area of research?

When I first embarked on research, I identified a gap as a practitioner and realised that I needed to do investigations at a national level. The topic emanated from my own journey of having worked in an asset management company in charge of Africa’s biggest infrastructure fund in the pension fund management industry.

I had an interest in how we could strengthen the linkages between financial markets, pension funds in particular, and national development goals. This included reducing poverty and increasing national productivity and economic output, using an African model for capital markets.

Having worked in the private and public sector, I identified a gap in the research area of how pension funds could be used to advance national development in emerging markets, on which very little research had been done in South Africa.

The other aspect of interest stemmed from my desire to see the poor economic outcomes for women addressed.

Why do you think this is such an important area of research for South African women?

The work I did for my doctoral thesis investigated the transmission of pension savings to growth. The relationship and co-integration between savings, bond and stock markets and growth, using empirical analysis to ascertain the relationships between variables, has a direct effect on livelihoods.

Women can enter quantitative and statistical spaces where there is a paucity of work done, the message being that no matter how technical or complex, we too are able to get the work done!

What would you consider the greatest impact of your research on women in the country?

The ability to inspire and enter the academic space as the first woman in this discipline is not only groundbreaking, but also truly life-changing, as you are able to find new ways to solve national problems, using research to innovate and think of solutions in the development finance discipline.

Universities are critical enablers for producing knowledge and ideas that break new boundaries, produce solutions and can advise policymakers. If implemented, the policy recommendations emanating from my research would improve economic gains and yield growth outcomes that are needed in South Africa, directly improving the lives of women and those who are impoverished.

What would your message be for the next generation of women researchers?

Plan your academic journey and find yourself a research area that complements your passion, areas of interest and long-term goals so that you can merge your research with your post-research life, whether inside or outside academia.

We are in need of solutions to the multiple problems and complex issues faced on the continent, be they economic, in healthcare, scientific, the built environment and all other spheres and disciplines.

I am proud to be black, in academia, and in the quantitative and economic space, which is predominantly male-dominated. If doors could open for me, a girl from Umtata, it is possible for other girls too, no matter their background.

You can follow Moleko on Twitter and Instagram at @drnthabimoleko

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* This Women’s Month, IOL in collaboration with the African News Agency, are calling on our readers, corporate partners and staff to nominate a woman who embodies the spirit of the women who took part in the 1956 march on the Union Buildings, by empowering and uplifting her community, fellow women or industry.

The #SheIsMyRock nominee will be featured on IOL and you could stand a chance of winning an awesome gift for her, thanks to our sponsors Dove, JC le Roux and Sorbet.

To enter, email us at iolcompetitions@inl.co.za or WhatsApp to 074 557 3535, include a picture of the inspirational woman in your life and tell us why she is your rock. Text, audio and video entries will be accepted.

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