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Social work paper finalist in Global Undergraduate Awards

- Wits University

When Bilqees Mahomed decided to study the factors that hinder the treatment of mental health, she didn’t anticipate that it would have a ripple effect.

Young woman walking down path

The recent graduate from the Department of Social Work has been named the regional winner of the Africa and the Middle East region of the Global Undergraduate Awards (GUA). She will now proceed to the finals where she will meet other regional finalists in the Social Science: Anthropology & Cultural studies category, in November. The GUA are viewed as the world’s leading undergraduate awards programme which recognises top undergraduate work and connects students across cultures and disciplines.

Her interest was borne out of the realisation that mental health continues to be undertreated, despite the growing awareness of its prevalence.

Her research paper attributes the problem to misperceptions and stigma, firstly around the condition and secondly, the lack of knowledge about the different forms of therapy.

She, however, believes that through more research, education and awareness these barriers could be dismantled. “Cultural sensitivity and a greater understanding of cultural and religious beliefs is a vital component in counselling in a diverse country such as South Africa,” adds the 23-year-old, who calls herself an activist at heart.

The GUA under the patronage of the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, was established in 2012  and targets students and graduates early in their career to give them the confidence to acknowledge and harness their talents to build a brighter future.  “We believe in empowering students, helping them to recognise the potential their undergraduate work can have in making real change,” read the organisation’s website.

It is this belief that prompted her research supervisor, Ms Laetitia Petersen to urge Mohamed to submit her entry in June 2020.

“Her study makes valuable contributions to the field of mental health and indigenous perceptions and cultures that shape our world views. I am truly honoured to have played a small role in her research journey. Students like Ms Mahomed makes the academic journey just so much more rewarding.

“I am very proud of her! This is an enormous achievement for her and all of us in the School and Faculty. It is hoped, the example she has set for all students will reinforce the value of their explorations in understanding their world. May more students, especially the fourth-year social work students, have the courage to let their work be show cased nationally and internationally.”