The Black Management Forum is outraged at the recent racist and sexist publication of the article ‘Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in coloured South African women’ by the University of Stellenbosch’s Sport Science researchers Sharne Nieuwoudt, Kasha Elizabeth Dickie, Carla Coetsee, Louise Engelbrecht and Terblanche.

This publication does not instill the hope of ever realising the social cohesion needed for a united South Africa but rather fosters divisiveness that makes nation building near impossible.

The study’s abstract, which is heavily flawed reads in part:

“Coloured women in South Africa have an increased risk for low cognitive functioning, as they present with low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors”. 


This statement and the study in its entirety contains racist and sexist ideological underpinnings and it perpetuates harmful stereotypes about black ‘coloured’ women.

The arguments presented by the researchers is scientifically flawed due to the following, amongst other reasons:

  1. A flawed methodology: the authors use a cognitive measurement instrument which has been demonstrated to be deficient and inapplicable to the South African context.
  2. Its title, abstract and introduction infer that the results are applicable to all ‘Coloured South African women’, this is despite the authors acknowledging they draw on a small sample size and that the research has its limitations.
  3. The authors also acknowledge that their normative sample data is dated and drawn from a population of white, adult Americans aged 7 to 90 years. The value of comparing their sample of 60 ‘coloured’ women to this normative sample is highly questionable.  
  4. And the study’s argument is biased from its inception: the authors start off with the premise that ‘coloured’ women are at ‘increased risk for low cognitive functioning’ and work from this assumption to confirm that these women are at a high risk for the development of low cognitive functioning. Almost as if to say, the study is a confirmation of what they have always known to be true on the cognitive functioning of ‘coloured’ women.

The BMF is highly disappointed to learn that the University of Stellenbosch has published a study that racially profiles black coloured women in the blatant manner that it does without regard to the painful colonial past black people, women in particular suffered during apartheid. The study invokes the memory of what happened to Sarah Baartman which ostensibly was also done in the name of science.

The BMF believes that there should be legal ramifications for a study that recklessly profiles black coloured women in the manner that it has.

We stand in solidarity with fellow South Africans who are similarly opposed to this study as termed scientific when in fact it perpetuates supremacist ideals and notions about black women.

We also urge fellow South Africans to reject in its entirety the study’s research and the attitude of the University of Stellenbosch for defending their stance herein. 

The BMF is determined to protect South African women from this kind of abuse and marginalization and will be determining how it responds to this issue legally.