South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
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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, based in Pretoria,  and a NRF A rated scientist and MRC gold medal winner in 2014. She is Secretary of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative ( and Consortium Director of the DFID-flagship What Works To Prevent Violence? Global Programme ( The Global Programme is working across 14 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to generate knowledge on prevention of violence against women and girls. She is  a medical doctor and Specialist in Public Health Medicine, with a  Masters in Community Medicine and Doctorate of Medicine (MD) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has spent the last 20 years researching intersections of gender-based violence, gender inequity and health  using methods drawn from epidemiology, anthropology and health systems research. She has authored over two 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 was the lead technical advisor on the UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in  Asia Pacific   and 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  WHO's Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee for HIV-AIDS (STAC-HIV) and the STAG - WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, and a former member of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board.  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 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 and Chief Scientist

Tel: +21 (0) 21 938 0823

Naeemah is the Unit’s Deputy Director. 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 20+ 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 longitudinal research on the impact on rape, 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, femicide, intimate femicide, child homicide and infanticide. She was also involved in the Global Burden of Disease study in collaboration with WHO and the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine. She is currently also part of the Know Violence – a Global learning Initiative on violence in Childhood.

yandisaDr Yandisa Sikweyiya
Specialist Scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8619

YANDISA is a Specialist Scientist at the Gender & Health Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council, and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand. He holds a PhD degree (Public Health) from the University of the Witwatersrand, a Master’s degree (Public Health) from Umeå University, Sweden, and a post-graduate certificate in research ethics that was jointly awarded by the Universities of Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal. He is a member of the ethics committees of the South African Medical Research Council & University of Pretoria, Faculty of Health Sciences. His research interests include men and masculinities, gender-based violence and research ethics, and has authored over 36 publications in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and technical reports on these topics.

His current research activities include being a principal-investigator in the following projects: 1) Understanding factors that influence review decisions among members of South African Research Ethics Committees: A focus on studies on sexual gender-based violence victimization and perpetration, and 2) Exploring constructions, performances, and reconfigurations of masculinities during and after the Marikana mineworkers’ strike of 2012. Furthermore, he is a co-investigator in the following projects: 1) A cluster randomised controlled trial to assess the impact of the Rural Response System to Reduce Violence against Women in Ghana, 2) A cluster randomized control trial to evaluate the combined intervention of Stepping Stones and Creating Futures in urban informal settlements in Durban, South Africa, 3) A qualitative study on Father Identity and Connections in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape provinces, South Africa, 4) A formative research to develop a gender and behaviour change intervention for Medical Male Circumcision settings in South Africa.

Liz DartnallLiz Dartnall
SVRI Programme Officer/Snr Research Manager

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

Liz is a health policy specialist with over 19 years of health research, public policy and project management experience. Liz currently manages the day to day activities of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), 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 low and middle income countries. 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 the Department of Health in South Africa; and Senior Programme Manager for the African Medical and Research Foundation, South Africa.  Liz is particularly interested in gaining a better understanding of how early experiences of violence influence future perpetration and victimisation and how this can be used to inform the development of primary prevention programmes. She is also interested in the area of vicarious trauma and doing research on sexual violence, and how to prevent it. For more information

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.

Nwabisa Jama ShaiNwabisa Jama Shai
Senior Scientist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8528

Nwabisa Jama-Shai is a Senior Scientist 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. Her interests lie in exploring the intersection of gender based violence and disability in South Africa. She is currently working towards a PhD in Public Health on Women with physical disabilities’ experiences of violence in the Western Cape, South Africa. She is also involved in research on developing and testing gender-specific coping interventions for HIV positive women in 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 (S)

El: +27 (0) 21 9380822

Bongwekazi is based in Cape Town. She holds a BA degree in Human and Social Sciences majoring in Public Administration and Communication Facilitation. She is currently studying towards her BSocSc Honours in Gender Studies. 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. She also worked 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 currently working with Mercilene Machisa on a Cross Sectional National Study investigating rape case attrition within the criminal justice system (RAPSSA).

Samantha WillanSamantha Willan
Capacity Development Manager
What Works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls

Skype: Samantha.willan

Samantha has over 15 years’ experience working on preventing violence against women and girls, gender equality, sexuality, and HIV, from a women’s rights perspective. Her work has spanned providing technical support and capacity development, training, intervention development and implementation, global research and policy influencing. While being based in South Africa her focus has been across southern and eastern Africa and South Asia, with a global outlook in relation to research and policy developments.

She has recently joined the What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls team as the Capacity Development Manager. Prior to that she was the Programme Lead for the Gender Equality and Health Programme at HEARD, UKZN a programme which she co-founded in 2009. Her work has focussed on research to improve the evidence base around what works to prevent violence against women and reduce women’s HIV risk. She focuses on generating evidence to improve interventions and our understanding of VAW and improving the realisation of women and girls sexual and reproductive health and rights. Alongside generating evidence she supports capacity development of researchers and implementers globally. She was recently involved in a flagship programme around the development of an intervention that utilised a gender consciousness raising and livelihoods approach, this work has received funding for a random control trail. She has also undertaken pioneering policy work on ensuring that National Strategic Plans on HIV & AIDS in east and southern Africa include women, girls and gender equality.

Previously she worked as the Policy Adviser: HIV&AIDS and Gender at VSO (2004-2006), in London; Project Director at HEARD (2000-2004) and as Information Manager at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1998). Her professional expertise is complemented by her activism for over 25 years around social injustices, women’s rights, sexuality and HIV. She obtained her masters in Political Science in 1998 at the University of Natal.

Dr Esnat ChirwaDr Esnat Chirwa
Senior Statistician

Tel: (+27) 12 339 8556

Esnat is a Senior Statistician for the What works to prevent Violence project, a multi-country DFID-funded programme within the MRC Gender & Health Unit.  She has a postgraduate diploma and Master’s Degree in Biometry obtained from the University of Reading (UK), and PhD from the University of Witwatersrand (SA).  Her career as a Statistician started at the University of Malawi, where she worked as a lecturer in Applied Statistics and was involved in teaching study designs, statistics theory and quantitative analysis methods to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She has done consultancy work for various medical research organisations. As a PhD student at University of Witwatersrand (SA), she was involved in statistical consultations for the Faculty of Health Sciences students. Statistical consultation activities included helping students with study designs, protocol writing, refining research questions, sample size calculations, data management and analysis.  She is interested in application of multi-level models to longitudinal or hierarchical observational studies.

Ms Celicia SerenataMs Celicia Serenata
Programme Manager

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8521

Celicia is a Programme Manager for the What Works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Programme. She has an MBA from the North West University, and has 22 years’ experience working in global health. She has worked in HIV policy and implementation for the last 16 years before joining the MRC, including working at the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS unit, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the South African National AIDS Council, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. She is coordinating the What Works programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which is investing £25 million over 5 years to prevent violence against women and girls in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The programme aims to understand and address the underlying cases of violence, and find practical solutions to stop it from occurring, through funding research to generate the evidence for What Works.

Cuthbert AsiimweCuthbert Asiimwe
Contracts & Finance Manager

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8588

Cuthbert is an experienced Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCCA) certified by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the United Kingdom. He is also a holder of an honours bachelor of science degree in applied accounting awarded by Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. He joins the MRC-Gender & Health Research Unit’s “What Works Global Programme” with 10 years proven progressive work experience in financial management gained from regional and international organisations in Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. The bulk of his experience has focused on the NGO sector where he has supported various multi-donor funded projects such as; “Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) III” program funded by USAID and implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Uganda and Zimbabwe; Psycho-social care and support service delivery for families caring for orphans and vulnerable children in KwaZulu-Natal Province” funded by USAID and implemented by the Regional Psycho-Social Support Initiative (REPSSI) working with both the National and Provincial Department of Social Development in South Africa; Advocacy and mainstreaming of Psycho-social support initiatives implemented by REPSSI and funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation (SDC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Novartis Foundation for Sustainability Development (NFSD); Multi-donor funded interventions implemented by Restless Development, a youth-led development agency in the United Kingdom operating in Africa and Asia.

Ms Ellen KhomoMs Ellen Khomo

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8606

Ellen Khomo is an administrator for WhatWorks Project. She has worked in Project Operations since 2005 for GRM International and UNICEF.  She holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Marketing Management and is currently working on obtaining the Practical Project Management Certificate at the end of 2015.  Ellen has supported various southern African regional development programmes in education, health and agriculture.  Her expertise include project start-ups, resourcing, finance and operations.

Mzamo SokhelaMzamo Sokhela
Senior Finance Administrator

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8541

Mzamo works as a Finance Officer for the Gender & Health Research Unit. He holds a Bachelor of Accounting Science from the University of South Africa and a National Diploma in Accounting from the Durban University of Technology. He completed SAICA articles at Ash, Hellberg and van Rooyen Chartered Accountants (AHVR), worked as Audit Supervisor at AHVR and Ngubane & Co Chartered Accountants. He has worked at South African Medical Research Council on Research Contracts which are donor funded since July 2011.

Mercilene MachisaMercilene Machisa
Senior Scientist / Project Manager

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8596

Mercilene Tanyaradzwa Machisa is a senior scientist and project manager for the Rape Adjudication and Prosecution Study in South Africa (RAPSSA).She holds a M.Sc. in Medicine specialising in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and is pursuing PHD studies in Public Health with the University of Witwatersrand. Mercilene has experience of leading GBV survey research studies in South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Zambia, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. She is also active in the academia and is an honorary staff member in the Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Public Health at the University of Witwatersrand.

Mrs Maureen Moretlo MtimkuluMrs Maureen Moretlo Mtimkulu
Senior Research Technologist

Tel +27 (0)12 399 8522

Maureen is a Senior Research Technologist and has a Social Science Degree in Human and Societal Dynamics obtained at the University of the Free State. In 2011, she was an NRF (National Research Foundation) Intern based at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Centre for Health Policy where she embarked on her research career. Research interests included Health Systems Policy and Rural Health. At the moment she is part of the Skhokho Project in the Gender and Health Research Unit where the focus is on an intervention on prevention of Gender Based Violence and HIV in schools.

Ms Jane SeromoMs Jane Seromo
Senior Research Technologist

Tel: +27 (0) 12 339 8597

Jane is a senior research technologist and hold a BSc degree with majors in statistics and computer science. She started her career as an intern at the department of Water Affairs in 2007. She then moved to work on managing datasets from various research projects .She is now involved in the Skhokho project which is a school-based intervention aimed at reducing gender-based violence amongst grade 8 learners in 24 schools within the Tshwane District.

Koketso SekhuKoketso Sekhu
Senior Research Technologist

Tel: +27(0)12 339 8528

Koketso is a Senior Research Technologist and has a BA in Sociology and Criminology and completed a BsocSci in Honours Gender Studies in 2013. She has written a research report titled: “African professional stay-at-home moms living in Tshwane townships. She is currently pursuing a Master degree in Public Health at UKZN. Her work is focused on the livelihood constructions of African women in rural communities. She started her career as a research assistant at the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies in 2012. She researched on issues affecting children, women and LGBTI community in South Africa and the SADC region. She is a member and participates in Gender Research seminars at the University of Pretoria. Her research interests include a structural intervention for the prevention of GBV, poverty and HIV in rural South Africa. She is aspiring to write on qualitative research methods in the field of feminist epistemologies, culture and sexuality for research intervention and care. Her current research activities include an intervention in the prevention of gender based violence and HIV in schools.

Miss Bianca DekelMiss Bianca Dekel
PhD Candidate

Tel: +27 (0) 21 938-0838

Bianca is a PhD Candidate at the Gender & Health Research Unit. She has a Master’s Degree in Research Psychology from the University of the Western Cape and is a registered Research Psychologist. She is currently working towards a PhD in Psychology on infanticide in South Africa.

Alesha SewnathAlesha Sewnath
Project Manager/Scientist

Tel: +27 (31) 242 3720

Alesha is a project manager at the Gender and Health Research Unit, based in Durban. She is working with the Rape Impact Cohort Evaluation (RICE) Study as the project manager and is responsible of the overall set up and management of the study.  She has a background in clinical trials, having set up and managed various phase 1/11/111 trials with The International Maternal Paediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Network as well as managing other clinical studies within the paediatric HIV field. She has a MMedSci degree in Paediatrics and Child Health from the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine and is currently working towards her PHD at Stellenbosch University.

Sister Tholsie GoundenSister Tholsie Gounden
Senior Research Technologist

Tel: +27 (31) 242 3720

Sr Tholsie is a Senior Research Technologist at the Gender and Health Research Unit, based in Durban. She is working with the Rape Impact Cohort Evaluation (RICE) Study as the senior nurse as well as assisting in management of the study.  She has a background in clinical trials, having worked on phase 1/11/111 trials with The International Maternal Paediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Network.  She has a Diploma in General, Community, Psychiatric and midwifery nursing with over 20 years’ experience within this field.

Thobeka MajolaThobeka Majola
Research Assistant

Tel: +27 (0) 31 242 3600

Thobeka is a recruiter/Research assistant for the RICE study, based in Durban. She has a BA Degree majored in Psychology in Communication Science. She joined Gender Health Research Unit in 2014 when the Rice Project started, her duties include recruitment of rape exposed participants and recruitment of rape non exposed participants, conducting interviews with participants as well as retention of these participants.

Sinqobile Philile MngadiSinqobile Philile Mngadi
Senior Research Technologist

Tel: +27 (0) 31 242 3720

Sinqobile Philile Mngadi is a Senior Research Technologist at the Gender and Health Research Unit based in Durban. She joined the unit in July 2014 working in the RICE Project with Prof. Naeema Abrahams. She has a Bachelor of Psychology degree obtained from The University of Zululand and is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Her duties on the project are to provide counselling and support to the participants of the study and the team. She also assists with the Bryant System, which is used for data collection, addressing queries on the system and other administrative work.

Nonhlanhla SishiNonhlanhla Sishi

Tel: +27 (31) 242 3720

Nonhlanhla has been part of the RICE study since August 2014, she is a recruiter/beautician, based in Durban. She is responsible for collecting hair samples and ensuring that Rice participants get manicures, she also does recruitment of participants and conduct interviews.  

Nikiwe NtanziNikiwe Ntanzi
Research Technologist

Tel: +27 (31) 242 3720

Nikiwe is a Research Technologist for the Gender and Health Research Unit and she works on the RICE Study which is based in KZN, Chatsworth site. She has a nursing certificate obtained in 2002 at Chatsmead Chandlelight Nursing College. Her duties are doing clinical and health assessment reports, HIV counselling, sexual health assessments, drawing of bloods of participants and referring participants to local clinics or Thuthuzela Centres for any further management.

Ms Shibe MhlongoMs Shibe Mhlongo

Tel: +27(0)21 938 0826

Shibe, is a data manager and statistician for the Gender and health RICE study, based in Cape Town. She has a degree in BSc Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Zululand and an Honours degree in Statistics from the University of Western Cape.  She is at the beginning of her career and her interest area is in the analysis of longitudinal studies. She works closely with Carl Lombard (biostatistician) and Naeemah Abrahams on the impact of rape in women on HIV acquisition and retention and linkages to care.

#007db5Veronica Chamane
Recruiter/Research Assistant

Tel: +27 (0)31 242 3720

Veronica is a Recruiter/Research Assistant for the RICE Study, she joined the RICE team in September 2015. Previously she worked for HPRU as a fieldworker/community liaison officer. She is responsible for recruiting participants for the RICE study and the retention of these participants

Janice JuliusJanice Julius

Tel: +27 (31) 242 3720

Janice is the administrator for Gender & Health Research Unit in Durban, for the RICE Project. She is also responsible for daily operations.

Prilene StroudPrilene Stroud

Tel: +27 (0) 21 938 0329

Prilene is an Administration Officer to the Gender and Health Research Unit for the Cape Town Branch. She is responsible for the Unit’s Administration, Procurement and daily operations.

Monalisa Hela Monalisa 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:
30 October, 2015
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