By Wanique Block
Over a month ago I came across South African Bio Scientist Lebogang Moatshe, who set social media ablaze when she tweeted about successfully completing a semen decontamination procedure.
Dating back to 1989, semen decontamination also known as “semen washing”, is a medical procedure that involves the removal of the HIV-virus from an infected man’s sperm prior to insemination.
Lebogang who took the time celebrate this momentous achievement as an embryologist in training, was caught by surprise when she saw herself trending on the streets of twitter.
In addition to celebrating her first win as an Embryologist in training, Lebogang also shared summarised details about the procedure.
Soon after sharing her tweet, Lebogang found herself overwhelmed by the misinterpretation of her tweet.
This was after another twitter user then re-shared Lebogang’s tweet by claiming that she was the first South African scientist to ever complete this procedure.
Although overwhelmed by the unsolicited attention, Lebogang then set the record straight, and used this situation as a teachable moment for many users on social media.
“I must clarify that I’m not the first person to do this procedure. It has been done by many over a period of years. It is a common thing in reproductive biology. I have just acquired the skill recently as an intern hence my post”, Lebogang pointed out in a tweet.
After this discovery, like everyone else, I was now more interested in who Lebogang Moatshe was, not to mention the work she does as a Bio Scientist and Embryologist; plus she’s a young Black women in STEM, so why wouldn’t I want her to be part of this #YoungTrailblazers feature?
My curiosity and admiration led me down a Google/ social media rabbit hole, and before I knew it I was in Lebogang’s DM’s requesting for an interview.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and now we’re here.
Describing herself as “an introverted 26-year-old who could have possibly been a wine connoisseur if the academic bug did not bite them, haha”, Lebogang is Bachelor of Sciences Honours graduate who studied at the University of the Western Cape. She is also a Medical Biological Scientist Intern specialising in Reproductive Biology and Embryology.
When asked about why she decided to pursue a career in Science, Lebogang notes that despite her grandmother prophesying her career in science, she always considered herself “a creative at heart”. Lebogang further explains that until pursuing a career in Science, she never realised that Science too is an art form.
“My late grandmother would always say how I am going to be a scientist, but I always saw myself as a creative at heart. Not realising that science itself, is a type of ART; no pun intended”, she shares with Kaya 959.
One thing that stood out to me when I came across Lebogang was that she is a young Black woman in science. Especially because Black women in Science woefully remain to be underrepresented in comparison to their white counterparts.
In conversation about this, Lebogang notes that it is merely impossible to not be political about Black women in Science, especially when Black women have faced and still continue to face racial and gender biases. She does however note that she is fortunate enough to be able to penetrate and succeed in a field that unfortunately still remains to marginalise Black women.
“[it’s difficult to not be] political about it and not erase the many hurdles that black women and women in general face in the field, I would say that we have come a long way and that needs to be acknowledged. There are now more opportunities in Science than in the past and I am fortunate to be one of the few women who managed to penetrate the field”, Lebogang explains.
Everyday more and more young women of colour pursue careers in Science, while this may be great, even in 2022 there still lies a long list of disparities that these women face.
This is why we at Kaya 959 are shining a light on Bio Scientist Lebogang Moatshe.
Although at the start of her career, she is a beacon of hope to many young Black girls who aspire to pursue careers in Science.