National Water Week kicked off with the presentation of the Women in Water Awards at the Presidential Guesthouse on March 18, 2005. At the ceremony five women received prizes for their achievements in the water sector in South Africa.
Handing out the awards water minister Buyelwa Sonjica said, "The Women in Water Awards are presented to women of stature, women who have excelled in their field and who have made significant contribution to the management of water in South Africa. In particular, the women who have been chosen have used their knowledge, their skills and their considerable capacity to ensure that water management in South Africa contributes to a better life for all."
Mpumalanga scooped two of the prestigious awards, with grade five teacher Thelmah Mavimbela winning the education and communication award, and Sethe Mothibi-Thinane of Global Forest Products rewarded for her contribution to management and policy making. Portia Mphephu of Gauteng won the community development award.The two research prizes went to Professor Maggy Momba, a professor at the university of Fort Hare from the Eastern Cape and Lungile Mthembu (in the under 35 age category) from KwaZulu Natal, where she is a microbiologist for Umgeni Water. Minister Sonjica encouraged more women to enter the field of water work, be it as engineers, managers or researchers. The prizes are sponsored by Eskom, and an external adjudication committee determines the winners each year.
Dr Sharon Pollard, from the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), based at Wits Rural Facility near Hoedspruit, was one of the three finalists in the research (over 35) category. Her peers nominated her for her work in the lowveld as well as internationally. She coordinates the Save the Sand Project, a national pilot project for Integrated Catchment Management, on the Sand River that leads into the Sabie River. She is also a lead researcher in developing a model that integrates the water allocated for the Reserve into catchment planning.