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Gender and Health Research Unit


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Gender and Health Research Unit
(Pretoria Office)

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339-8526
Fax: +27 (0) 12 339-8582

Postal address:
Medical Research Council
Private Bag X385
Pretoria 0001
South Africa

Street address:
MRC Building
1 Soutpansberg Road

Pretoria Office

Gender and Health Research Unit
(Cape Town Office)

Tel: +27 (0) 21 938-0445
Fax: +27 (0) 21 938-0310

Postal address:
Medical Research Council
Private Bag 19070
Tygerberg 7505
South Africa

Street address:
MRC Building
Francie van Zyl Drive

Cape Town Office

Rachel JewkesProfessor Rachel Jewkes
Unit Director

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339-8525

Rachel is the Director of the MRC Gender & Health Research Unit and a NRF A rated scientist. She is based in Pretoria. She trained as a medical doctor and is a specialist in Public Health Medicine. She has a Masters in Community Medicine and Doctorate of Medicine (MD) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. She has spent most of the last 20 years researching intersections of gender-based violence, particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence (including child sexual abuse), and gender inequity and health in South Africa using methods drawn from epidemiology, anthropology and health systems research. She has authored over one hundred and fifty publications in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and reports. She has worked closely with the South African Government over many years on sexual violence policy in the health sector. She is the Secretary of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative.  She is the lead technical advisor on the CHANGE Project,  a collaborative research project on gender-based violence violence prevention and masculinities that is being conducted in the Asia Pacific region for by Partners For Prevention.  She was a member of the steering committee of the WHO multi-country study on violence against women. She is a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Injury and Violence Prevention and Control, a member of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board and of the  WHO's Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee for HIV-AIDS (STAC-HIV).  Her other research interests include sexuality, evaluation of behavioural interventions for HIV prevention, termination of pregnancy and community participation. Most importantly she has been working to ensure that these research findings are translated into interventions within society to improve the lives of women. She was a co-founder and is an active lecturer on the annual four week short course on Reproductive Health Research Methods which is in its 15th year. She has a very active programme of PhD supervision and is also an Honorary Professor in the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand.

naeemaProfessor Naeemah Abrahams
Deputy Unit Director

Tel: +21 (0) 21 938 0445

Naeemah is the Unit’s Deputy Director and a Senior-Specialist Scientist. She has a PhD and MPhil in Public Health and started her career as a nurse. She has worked in the area of gender based violence for the last 18 years. She has a two honorary appointments:  as a Honorary Associated Professor with UCT Faculty of Health Sciences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as Extraordinary Professor with UWC Faculty of Community Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. She provides teaching, post graduate supervision and research support at both universities. Her special interests are health sector responses to gender-based violence, including the interface between GBV and HIV. Her research skills are in both epidemiological and qualitative methods. Her current research activities include sexual assault services - particular adherence to post exposure prophylaxis after rape to prevent HIV, mental health services for rape survivors, social responses to HIV and rape, developing and testing gender-based HIV and AIDS risk reduction skills interventions and femicide-Female homicide, including intimate femicide. She is also involved in the Global Burden of Disease study in collaboration with WHO and the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine. She is also a foreign faculty member of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

yandisaDr Yandisa Sikweyiya
Senior Scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8619

Yandisa is a Senior Scientist. He has a PhD in Public Health from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Masters in Public Health from the Umea University, Sweden. In 2006, he was a fellow on the South African Research Ethics Training Initiative. Since 2008 he has been a member of the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee. He has special interest in Ethics, Philosophy and Hegemonic Masculinities. His current research activities include being a co-investigator in the following projects: an ethnographic study of ethical issues in conducting gender-based violence research in community based studies in South Africa, a pilot study to evaluate the combined curriculum of Stepping Stones and a Livelihood Strengthening intervention with out-of-school youth in informal settlements in Durban, a formative research to develop a gender and behaviour change intervention for Medical Male Circumcision settings in South Africa, and a study that aims to develop and pilot test a gender-based HIV AIDS risk reduction and coping skills intervention for HIV positive men in South Africa.

Liz DartnallLiz Dartnall
SVRI Programme Officer/Snr Research Manager

Tel: +27 (0) 12 338 8527
E-mail: or

Elizabeth (Liz) is a health policy specialist with research, public policy and project management experience. Liz manages the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, a global project hosted by the South African Medical Research Council. The SVRI aims to promote priority driven, good quality research in the area of sexual violence, particularly in developing countries. The SVRI is building an experienced and committed network of researchers, policy makers, activists and donors to ensure that the many aspects of sexual violence are addressed from the perspective of different disciplines and cultures. Liz has a Post-graduate Degree in Psychology from Curtin University in Australia and a Masters in Science (Medicine) from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Previous work experience includes working as a researcher at the Centre for Health Policy, University of the Witwatersrand; working in policy and research development for the Department of Health in Western Australia and in South Africa; and was Senior Programme Manager for AMREF South Africa. Liz is particularly interested in gaining a better understanding of how early experiences of violence may influence future perpetration and victimisation and how this can be used to inform the development of prevention programmes. She is also interested in the area of vicarious trauma and doing research on sexual violence, and how to prevent it.

lizleLizle Loots
Senior Scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8548

Lizle is a Senior Scientist based in Pretoria and works with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), hosted by the South African Medical Research Council. She is currently working towards her PhD in Public Health. She has a specific interest in research and interventions to strengthen the criminal justice system to reduce rape case attrition through improved investigation and adjudication of cases. Follow the SVRI on Twitter @TheSVRI and join the fan page on Facebook at: Sexual Violence Research Initiative.

Simukai Shamu Dr Simukai Shamu
Senior scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8515

Simukai is a Senior Scientist and has a PhD in Public Health. He started his career as a Social Scientist in Zimbabwe. He taught Public Health Research Methods, Health Promotion and Sociology of Health at the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Community Medicine since 2004 before enrolling for PhD studies in 2009 at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa in collaboration with Ghent University, Belgium. His research interests include both epidemiological and qualitative research methods in the field of intimate partner violence, maternal health, HIV and school health. His current research activities include an intervention on prevention of gender based violence and HIV in schools.

Anik GeversDr Anik Gevers
Specialist Scientist

Tel: +27 (0)21 938 0414

Aník is a clinical psychologist and senior researcher specialising in intervention development, primary prevention of gender-based violence, child and adolescent mental health and well-being, and trauma-related mental health issues. She completed her PhD at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), masters degree at the University of Missouri-St Louis (USA), and undergraduate degree at Grinnell College (USA). She has worked in a variety of clinical and research settings locally and internationally. Currently, she holds an honorary faculty position at the Department of Psychiatry & Mental Health, University of Cape Town. She has skills in qualitative and quantitative research, programme evaluation, project management, intervention development, and research dissemination through publications, reports, and presentations. Aník’s current research in the Gender and Health Research Unit at the MRC across multiple projects focuses on programme and intervention development and evaluation in the field of health promotion, violence prevention and response, and mental health support in the aftermath of sexual violence. In addition, Aník is a technical adviser for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative projects in eastern Africa, serves as academic supervisor for postgraduate students at several institutions, and conducts reviews of manuscripts in local and international indexed academic journals and international conference abstract selection.

Nwabisa Jama ShaiNwabisa Jama Shai
Senior Researcher

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8528

Nwabisa Jama-Shai is a Senior Researcher at the Gender and Health Research Unit. She has an MPH and is working towards a PhD in public health. She also holds an Honorary Lecturer position with the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand. She renders post graduate supervision and teaching on qualitative research methods to MSc students at the school and other academic research methods courses. She is a 2008 MAC AIDS Leadership Initiative fellow. Nwabisa’s special interests include gender based violence and HIV prevention research, and evaluation of behavioural interventions. She has demonstrable skills in qualitative and quantitative research, evaluation and management, and the development and adaptation of behavioural interventions. Her major contribution is in the understanding of femininities and implications for HIV and GBV risk, the pilot evaluation of Creating Futures/Livelihoods Strengthening intervention, the Gauteng household survey on gender based violence, and the evaluation of a HIV and gender violence prevention intervention, Stepping Stones. She also provides technical research support to other researchers and civil society organisations in South Africa.

Ingrid Van Der HeijdenIngrid Van Der Heijden
Senior Scientist/Anthropologist

Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 0514

Ingrid is a Senior Scientist who is based in Cape Town and has a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is currently involved in research on developing and piloting interventions for HIV positive women in South Africa. She has a special interest in developing and evaluating psychosocial support groups for vulnerable groups affected and infected by HIVAIDS. She has assessed the efficacy of numerous peer education HIV prevention interventions for vulnerable children and adolescents in South Africa and is currently working towards a PhD in Public Health on Women with disabilities’ experiences of violence in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Pinky MahlanguPinky Mahlangu
Senior Scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 11 717 3441

Pinky is a Senior Scientist and has a Masters in Development Planning. She is based at the Center for Health Policy of the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She is currently working on a PhD which is a policy analysis study that explores the multi-sectorial and multi-level response to HIV and AIDS in South Africa. Her research interests are in public health, health governance, and integrated development planning, urban HIV and policy analysis. Her current work involves integration of equity considerations such as gender, disability and HIV in public policy, urban health research on HIV and AIDS, intersectoral action on health and development issues and social determinants of health.

bongwekaziBongwekazi Rapiya
Research Technologist

El: +27 (0) 21 9380329

Bongwekazi is a Research Technologist at the Gender and Health Research Unit, based in Cape Town. She started at MRC in 2002 as a fieldworker working for the Stepping Stones project in Mthatha, In 2007, she moved to Cape Town where she worked with Prof Naeema Abrahams on the PEP/RCT a study looking at Post Exposure Prophylaxis adherence, subsequently she worked with Dr Shanaaz Mathews on the Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) study and also the FEMICIDE study. Currently she is working with Ingrid Van Der Heijden on a study that is looking at an intervention for HIV positive women to help them adjust and cope with living positively. She is also responsible for the administration and daily operations of the Cape Town office.

helaMonalisa Hela
Senior Administrator  
Senior administrative assistant
Tel: +27 (0) 12 339-8526

Monalisa Hela is the administrative assistant to the Gender & Health Research Unit’s Director in Pretoria and Cape Town Office and also the administrator responsible for the daily operations.

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Last updated:
13 August, 2015
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