Prof Monica Ferreira receives an honorary doctorate from the NWU

The North-West University (NWU), South Africa, honoured Prof Monica Ferreira with an honorary doctorate on 22 May 2019 as the most prominent first-generation exponent of research on and the development of a policy on ageing in Africa. She was nominated by the Faculty of Humanities for her extensive pioneering work in this field in Africa and internationally.

The NWU honoured Prof Ferreira for her focus on the challenges with regard to population ageing in the developed world, and also in the developing world, including Africa. Her aim is set on intergenerational equity and justice, with specific reference to resource allocation distribution. Prof Ferreira’s advocacy of a paradigm shift to consider the contributions of the elderly as valuable, especially in South Africa, including important aspects such as pensions for the elderly, HIV/Aids-infected children and grandchildren, is acknowledged. Part of Prof Ferreira’s extensive work includes the establishment of the National Research Programme on Ageing at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria in 1984. This was the first coordinated research effort on ageing in South Africa. Numerous publications saw the light as a result of this programme, including an edited volume of social research papers on ageing in South Africa by Ferreira, Gillis and Moller in 1989. In 1991 Prof Ferreira was appointed as the first director of the programme on ageing when it evolved into the HSRC/UCT Centre for Gerontology at the University of Cape Town. She also founded the very influential Southern African Journal of Gerontology (1992–2001), putting research on ageing in Africa on the international map. The centre is known today as the Albertina and Walter Sisulu Institute of Ageing in Africa, and is situated within the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town. During the 2000s Prof Ferreira contributed extensively to global networking by gerontologists and organisations and to the Pan-African policy on ageing. She also played a prominent role as consultant to the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. Prof Ferreira involved herself as a member of the UN Technical Committee for the drafting of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002, which led to the current Older Persons Act in South Africa, and to the African Union Expert Group for drafting the AU Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing in 2003. She served as adviser to the International Institute on Ageing (INIA), was involved in the drafting of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics Global Research Agenda on Ageing, and the drafting of the Africa regional research agenda. Prof Ferreira contributed extensively to the board of directors of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), as well as the Panel on Ageing in Developing Countries of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. Prof Ferreira was a founding member of the United Nations-endorsed African Research on Ageing Network (AFRAN), which was established in 2005. She headed the only International Longevity Centre (ILC) in Africa. She is still actively contributing as honorary president of ILC in Africa, after having served as co-president of the Global Alliance with Baroness Sally Greengross in the UK. Prof Ferreira was instrumental in curating the Directory of Research on Ageing in Africa (1995–2003), and served as follow-up director of Research on Ageing in Africa (2004–2015). She is renowned for her direct prominence in her research and publications and also for featuring indirectly through her intellect, assured guidance of young researchers and clear-minded opinions about African research on ageing.

The various exceptional achievements by Prof Ferreira single her out as one of the continent’s most significant figures in this field. As a first mover in an underdeveloped field, she has proven herself worthy to be honoured, since her focus emphasises the development of relevant and excellent research in Africa to achieve justice for the vulnerable. The NWU underwrites these valued themes and research set out by Prof Ferreira, and considers it a great honour to award Prof Ferreira the honorary doctorate. She has contributed towards establishing the NWU as one of the most prominent tertiary education institutions in Africa dealing with the social aspects of research on ageing.

Click here for the video of the offical ceremony.