Dr Patricia Mathabe, a lecturer at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, was awarded two Women Changing the World awards this April 2023.
As well as winning bronze in the Women in Agriculture category of the prestigious awards, she was also awarded silver in the Women in Education category.
Born in South Africa during apartheid, Dr Mathabe was raised by a single mum and received a Bantu education, which was designed to train Black South Africans for the unskilled labour market, but by age 12 she had become one of the first four Black students to be admitted to the Settlers Agricultural High School — and the only female in the agriculture class.
After winning numerous bursaries and scholarships, she was able to study in her home country of South Africa, as well as the UK and the USA, completing a Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, before receiving the prestigious Nelson Mandela Scholarship to study a master's degree at Cambridge University. She then studied for her PhD in plant sciences at Montana State University after winning a competitive Fulbright Scholarship.
She moved to the UK in January 2022 and joined the RAU as a lecturer in Agricultural Technology in November 2022, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in agricultural technology diffusion and research into agricultural proteomics.
Dr Mathabe said: 'It is really nice to be recognised in
this way. I do what I do because I love it and I don’t really worry about
recognition and rewards, so when they come it’s really very special, especially
for me as a woman of colour.
'I had to fight the apartheid system in South Africa and find my place in a country that was not used to successful people, especially not women. It’s been a very long, and sometimes painful, journey but, when you are recognised in this way, you realise it was all worth it after all.
'At the awards ceremony it was so inspirational to be surrounded by so many women, from all over the world, all doing amazing things. I just hope that these awards will inspire others to keep pursuing their dreams, to fight the fight, and to get there. I think this is just the beginning of even greater things to come.
Speaking about her current role, she added: 'You need to be in the right environment for all these things to be manifested. For me, working at the RAU is a dream come true. The support I have had from the university has been unbelievable and I have been so proud to say I work here.'