Sonke People

Shanaaz Mathews


Professor Shanaaz Mathews is Director of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town. She has 25 years’ experience in the women’s and children’s sectors and has worked within civil society organisations, as an academic, and as an advocate for the rights of women and children.

She is a specialist public health researcher and has a PhD in Public Health. She was previously with the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender & Health Research Unit. She is a founding member of the Western Cape Network on Violence against Women and was chair of the network from 1999 – 2000, and vice-chair from 2000 – 2002.

She has engaged in various policy processes in South Africa, such as the drafting of the Domestic Violence Act of 1999, the monitoring of its implementation through research, and capacity-building of civil society organisations to develop an understanding of the Act.  She also participated in drafting South Africa’s complimentary report to the African Union and United Nations on the Rights and Welfare of Children. She formed part of the South African delegation who presented to the African Committee on the rights and welfare of the child in April 2014. Her research on child homicides and the link to fatal child abuse has been ground-breaking and provides the first data on the epidemiology of this problem. She also led a study into what carers and children want from services after sexual assault, which identified major service gaps and mental health needs of children and their carers. Her qualitative work with violent men has provided insights into childhood factors in pathways to violent masculinities in the South African context.

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