News

The Women of the Shark Education Centre

By Danel Wentzel, 31st August 2022

Celebrating our incredible females at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre

 

There are a lot of ways to be a woman. For some, womanhood is strength. For others, it’s tenderness.

Womanhood might be pushing yourself in school, or in your career or helping to lift others. You can be a woman wearing a dress and heels or when you’re zipping up your wetsuit. Womanhood is not defined by relationships, jobs, body parts, or anything else – it’s not defined by anyone or anything but yourself.

August celebrates women's month in South Africa. Image by Nic Good | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Every year, in August, our country marks Women’s Month, where we pay tribute to the brave women (all 20 000 plus of them!) who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of ‘pass laws’ to women.

This Women’s Month, we want to celebrate our brave ladies by sharing more about their personal stories.

 

 

Meet Justine.

Justine Swartz is our dazzling educator. Image by Danel Wentzel | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Justine Swartz is our dazzling educator. She has been working at the SEC for ten months and is responsible for leading day-to-day education activities.

Standing with Justine at the rocky shores, admiring a beautiful False Plum anemone, I asked her a few questions.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“Having learners see the animals on the rocky shores for the first time and seeing those smiles and moments of  being in wonder of mother nature.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“The cookie-cutter shark.“

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“As a woman, I care and work with empathy when it comes to educating learners about mother nature and the resources provided by her.”

 

 

Meet Logan.

Logan Benjamin our education intern. Image by Danel Wentzel | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Next up, we have the youngest member of our team, the passionate Logan Benjamin. Logan started at SEC as a volunteer in January 2022 and is now an education intern at the centre. Her roles include preparing the classrooms, co-hosting educational presentations, taking the meeting minutes and sometimes even cooking or baking!

While cooking up a big pot of soup for the afternoon’s Marine Explorers group, I asked Logan a few questions.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“My favourite education moment would be when we take the kids down to the rocky shore. Just the pure excitement you get to witness when they get onto the beach never gets old. Just allowing the kids to experience learning about how marine life actually lives and works together on the shore, giving them the exposure they need to take it all in.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“The Greenland shark. They have a life span of 250 – 500 years and are also one of the few shark species that can go into freshwater. I think this is pretty cool because most people think sharks are only found in the ocean/ salt water.”

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“Being a woman is a lot of things. Many people think that being a woman is standing behind a stove, and getting judged just for looking a certain way. The standards are simply too high. But I think being a woman is going to work but still coming home to stand behind a stove because everyone needs to eat. I think being a woman is styling your hair in a certain way for yourself or just throwing it in a bun because that’s how you feel. I’m only still growing and learning what a woman is myself. Being a woman is a lot. But not too much to bring one down. I think being a woman is like being like the ocean. We are strong. We can be calm, so much so that sometimes people question us. Nevertheless, we rise, no matter the circumstance. Because to me, being a woman means doing it all.

P.s who doesn’t like being a woman and defying the odds.”

 

 

Meet Claire.

Claire Metcalf is our incredible facilities administrator. Image by Nic Good | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Claire Metcalf is our incredible facilities administrator and has been with the team for six years. She is responsible for taking care of day-to-day operations and admin that comes with running an NGO.

Sitting next to Claire in her office overlooking False Bay, I got a chance to ask her some questions.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“This would have to be watching the girls who are involved in our Marine Explorers Programme making a connection with the sea. By the end of the first dive, they couldn’t care what their hair looks like anymore, and that joyful childlike connection to nature that the ocean gives them can really light up my day..”

What is your favourite shark species?

“This is an impossible question. They are all cool! If I have to pick one now, it would probably be an oceanic white tip. They have an unusual dorsal fin, very rounded and not pointy the way you usually think of a shark fin.“

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“I think all women have the right to be who they want to be, and being a woman to me means feeling deeply moved when you see other women achieving what they set out to do and proud when they pave the way for others to follow.”

 

 

Meet Zanele.

The longest-standing member of the team is Zanele Mayiya, our assistant educator. Image by Nic Good | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Zanele Mayiya is our assistant educator and also the longest-standing member of the team. She has been working at the SEC for 13 years, and her main roles include leading guided centre tours, helping out with school groups and showing off the incredible microscope exhibit!

Watching Zanele prepare a sea urchin to put under the microscope, I asked her a few questions.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“I don’t have a favourite moment. It makes me happy every time I see the joy we bring to humans, both large and small.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“The nurse shark.“

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“It means that I am strong, I am a hero, and as a woman, I can depend on myself!”

 

 

Meet Dani.

A rare glimpse of the lady behind the lens, Danel Wentzel is our social media consultant. Image by Danel Wentzel

That’s me! My name is Danel Wentzel, but the folks around here call me Dani. On the rare occasions that I’m not underwater, you can find me at the Shark Centre running the various social media platforms. I am responsible for curating content, writing blogs and taking the occasional photographs when needed.

Here is a little more about me.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“My journey at the Shark Centre began in my first year of uni back in 2017 as a Marine Explorers volunteer. This programme has a special place in my heart. My favourite moment was back in 2018 when we saw a small shyshark in the Miller’s Point tidal pool. At that moment, I remember fear leaving and curiosity taking over the learners. It was magical to observe.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“The white shark. My heart wants to see one of these beautiful, strong, fearless creatures in the wild!.“

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“Being a woman to me means to be like the sea. It is to be a beautiful summer’s day swim, but also a wild winter storm as it is needed. It is to be a supporter of life and a celebrator of all women who are seen and unseen in society today.”

 

 

Meet Anna.

Anna James is our education coordinator and newest addition to the team. Image by Danel Wentzel | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Anna James is our education coordinator. She has been working at the SEC since June 2022 and is responsible for leading day-to-day education activities.

Between greeting eager visitors at the centre, I asked her a few questions.

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“I was talking to a group of grade 7s about the creatures on the rocky shore. When we got to the limpet, one girl raised her hand and gave a full account of the anatomy of a limpet (here is the head, and there is the gills), which she had learned from her mother, who makes limpet soup. Ocean education should be about providing a space where young people can link their experience to further curious inquiry.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“It’s quite hard to pick one, but I am warming up to the St. Joseph’s shark. I like how this shark has an in-between existence. It is “halfway” between a typical fish and a typical shark.””,

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“Being a woman means feeling a small fire in my heart as I navigate a world in which woman oppression has been normalised. Being a woman cannot be conceived of separately from race and class oppressions which shape experience so acutely in South Africa, the same systems which exploit and damage our natural marine environments. Being a woman means thinking continuously about how to build networks of care across divides and taking guidance from women past and present who have collectively organised for ecological and social wellbeing. It means drifting away from the question altogether as we drift away from binary ways of thinking, being and doing.”

 

 

Meet Clova.

Clova Mabin is the centre director. Image by Danel Wentzel | SOSF Shark Education Centre

Saving the best for last – the incredible woman responsible for wearing the pants around the centre. Clova Mabin is the centre director and has worked at SEC for three and a half years.

Anyone who knows Clova can be assured that there is never a moment when she is not on her feet. This is why I had to lace up my walking shoes and try to keep up as I asked her a few questions during a mid-day speed walk!

 

What has been your favourite educational moment in your career?

“For me, it is a moment I experience on a daily basis, rather than a single moment in time. It is observing the faces of our children and youth as they fall in love with the ocean. This can happen while rockpooling on the rocky shore or while snorkelling in the kelp forests.  Often, you can see anxiety or unhappiness just melt away, to be replaced by big grins.”

What is your favourite shark species?

“Gosh, this changes weekly! I am going to have to choose one of the species that I have been lucky enough to dive with, the broadnose spotted sevengill cowshark.“

What does being a woman mean to you? 

“I grew up in an egalitarian household, so was raised to believe that I could do anything a man could. I hope that this belief is, in turn, passed on to my two young daughters. I know that not all women are so lucky to have this support, and therefore this is something I feel strongly about. Being a woman means wearing many hats: a nurturer, and a leader but above all empowering others.”

 

 

Thank you to our incredible team of women at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre! We appreciate your hard work and dedication, and you all are a true inspiration to the kids you work with daily.

Happy Women’s Month!