Senior scientist: South African Medical research Council

Yandisa Sikweyiya

Why do men rape? It’s a question we all ask when we read almost daily of the inhumane rape of women and children in South Africa. Why, when and how men rape — as well as how to stop them — are questions that frame the cutting-edge research of 30-year-old Yandisa Sikweyiya.

As a senior scientist at the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), Mthatha-born Sikweyiya is committed to eradicating rape through research that’s proven meaningful in and beyond South Africa. Sikweyiya’s research describes the causes, patterns and magnitude of sexual violence in South Africa, has been influential at government policy level and is being referenced globally, with many countries replicating his research methodologies.

Managing, collaborating and co-investigating on local and international research projects, Sikweyiya liaises with government stakeholders, analyses data, contributes scientifically to co-authored draft papers and writes academic articles and research proposals. That’s just by day. By night, he studies for his PhD in public health, specialising in research ethics, through Wits University. It’s part of his plan to become a leading scholar in research ethics, philosophy, gender- based violence and qualitative methodology globally.

It doesn’t seem a far-off shot and, with his tenacity and drive, there’s no doubt he’ll achieve it. Tackling rape at the root of the problem, Sikweyiya’s also motivated to work harder because he has hope: the behaviour- change interventions that have been developed within his research unit are proving to be effective in transforming the harmful behaviours of men.

In addition to serving on various committees and forums, Sikweyiya has been widely published in international journals and his research papers have been presented in national and international conventions. He is steadfastly and selflessly committed to the creation of a free, safe society in which women and children do not need to live in fear, and where we no longer read about rape.

— Lu Larche