Dr Lieketseng Ned, a researcher in the Department of Global Health, was recently appointed as the country representative for South Africa for the Community-Based Rehabilitation Africa Network.
This is the latest in a number of key achievements by the 31-year-old academic, who lectures in the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies (CRS) at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS). She convenes the CRS' postgraduate diploma programme and has published book chapters and articles in a number of journals. In 2018, aged 29, she was the youngest person in the department to complete her PhD.
Last year, she was featured as one of the Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans to watch and is also the deputy chair for the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre facility board.
The Community-Based Rehabilitation Africa Network is an independent non-government organisation that specialises in facilitating networking and information-sharing on disability and community-based rehabilitation (CBR) in Africa.
"Its mandate is to provide lessons to different African countries to improve service delivery that enhances the lives of people with disabilities. This is done through working with various stakeholders and people with disabilities are at the centre," said Ned, who hails from Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape. She has long been concerned that the majority of disabled people globally live in the global south and yet disability studies remains dominated by "thought from the north".
In an interview, Ned said she was very happy about her appointment. "I am stepping into big shoes but this is such an exciting opportunity and, in fact, I have always envisioned doing this kind of work," she said. "It really resonates with the vision of the CRS, which is to enable excellence in transforming disability through partnership. The appointment holds opportunities for pushing the disability and rehabilitation agenda in South Africa, where it has been placed in the margins for quite some time."
On her role as country representative, Ned said she will be the first contact person for CBR work in South Africa, even in relation to research they want to undertake. "It will go through me. I will be tasked with identifying areas of co-operation between the network and organisations in SA that are doing CBR work; I will have to recruit members for the network and I will have to support the network in sourcing information about South Africa to go into their newsletter and other publications, among other things."
Ned said she has been a member of the network for some time now. "I have been participating in their conferences, the most recent one being in Zambia. I became more involved with them when I joined SU in 2014 but before that I read a lot about them whilst doing my masters research, which was grounded in community-based rehabilitation.
"I've always been interested in CBR so I became a member and started attending their conferences. Earlier this year, they called for applications for country reps for the different African countries, I applied and I was successful."
Apart from her duties with the network, academic life continues for Ned and, she said that, at present she is doing research on the experiences of people with disabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic "as most responses are not disability inclusive."
Asked what she wants to achieve in the role, Ned said: "I would like to mobilise for effective implementation of community-based rehabilitation as well as contribute to resuming accredited training of community-based rehabilitation workers. This will assist in addressing the unmet rehabilitation needs particularly in rural contexts."
Caption: Dr Lieketseng
appointed as the South African country representative for the
Community-Based Rehabilitation Africa Network. Photo by Wilma Stassen.