UKZN’s Professor Maheshvari Naidu with a
fellow delegate.

Professor Maheshvari Naidu, Associate Professor in Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, was recently hosted by the Secretariat in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Community Development in Seychelles. 

Naidu was invited to add a bolt-on workshop event to the inaugural Social Work Conference held in the archipelago’s capital of Victoria. The conference was a joint venture of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Community Development and the University of Seychelles in collaboration with the US Embassy through the American Corner. 

During the second day of the forum, the speakers presented research, theories and recent practices in Seychelles and internationally. Present was the Minister of Social Development, as well as the Principal Secretary for Social Affairs Linda William Melanie, the Director of Social Affairs Ms Sylvette Gertrude and  around 200 professionals in the social science fields such as researchers, social workers, counsellors and students from the National Institute of Health and Social Studies among others. 

Invited to present a workshop on ‘Victim Empowerment’, Naidu drew from her background in anthropology and a cluster of simulation exercises, as well as narrative, image and text around ‘BodyWork’. 

In this context ‘BodyWork’ is conceptualised around the individual working on their issues of trauma by expressing trauma through narrative, words and drawings. Such work, dealing as it does with potentially deep seated trauma must of course be done by trained counsellors. This was an ideal group to explore such a therapeutic option as the audience comprised accredited social workers, counselors and social work students, she said. 

‘I was honored by the invitation which built on a pre-existing relationship with the University of Seychelles,’ said Naidu. In 2015, she was asked by the Centre for Culture and Education at the university to deliver workshop presentations to staff and lectures to students in the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Despite being a relatively new institution, the University of Seychelles, has a strong cohort of graduates and many of its courses are accredited by the University of London. It has also strong ties with the community. 

Naidu was recently promoted to Associate Professor in UKZN’s School of Social Sciences. She is also one of the co-ordinators of Community Engagement (Howard College) at the School. 

‘UKZN’s School of Social Sciences under the leadership of Professor Stephen Mutula, is a leading School in the College of Humanities, with many colleagues engaged in high impact projects,’ said Naidu. 

In recent years, many of the top UKZN published researchers have been attached to the School. Naidu was Top Published Woman Researcher in 2014, and third overall at the University. She was also Top Published Woman in Humanities in 2015. 

Naidu won one of the national awards for Research Excellence from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for Women in Science (WISA) in 2013. 

‘It was great interacting with the students from the University of Seychelles again, many of whom are health care practitioners,’ she said. ‘I now look forward to my own students graduating, which includes four masters and a doctoral student.’

Melissa Mungroo