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PhD student wins first international Anders Bäckström Prize
Author: Corporate Communications/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie (Rozanne Engel)
Published: 23/08/2018

The Rev Mwawi Chilongozi, a PhD in Theology student at Stellenbosch University (SU), has won the international Anders Bäckström Prize, to be awarded for the first time during the conference of the International Society for the Research and Study of Diaconia and Christian Social Practice from 12 to 14 September 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

Anders Bäckström, Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion at Uppsala University in Oslo, Norway, founded the fund in 2014 to support research on diaconia, Christian social practice, welfare and religion and, in particular, to support young researchers in this field. In the beginning of this year, the board of the Anders Bäckström Fund announced that, for the first time, an award for a master's thesis of excellence in the field of diaconal studies, welfare and religion will be awarded.

The Rev Chilongozi's master's thesis, which she completed in 2017 at SU, was recommended for the prize by her supervisor Prof Nadine Bowers Du Toit at the Department of Practical Theology. The award-winning thesis focuses on the role of the Presbyterian Church in Malawi with regard to maternal health.

The Rev Chilongozi completed her master's degree within the record time of one year and achieved a very good mark for her final product. A chapter stemming from the findings of her master's will also be published in a forthcoming book.

“This is the very first Anders Bäckström Prize and, to be the first person to be awarded this prize, I am overwhelmed with this honour. Maternal health is a socio-cultural and developmental issue that needs to be addressed by all people in the communities. I thought that, apart from the government, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, the church also has a role to play in reducing maternal mortality in Malawi," says the Rev Chilongozi.

The Rev Chilongozi is an ordained minister in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia (Malawi) and was the second woman to be ordained in this synod in 2004. Since that time, she has served in several leadership positions within the synod. She has also served on the Christian Service Committee of the Churches in Malawi between 2004 and 2011. She is currently in her first year of her PhD studies at SU.

According to Prof Bowers Du Toit, the Rev Chilongozi is an extremely disciplined, bright and dedicated student and is excited that one of her students will be receiving this award. “I have deep admiration for her clear vision for the thesis, as it is a key challenge within our African context – and one not often theologically reflected on at the intersection with theology, development and health within this context," says Prof Bowers Du Toit.