Liezille Jacobs

Dr Liezille Jacobs’s work has rated a four-page spread in Fairlady, something few people can claim. The 35-year-old, who grew up in coloured townships in the Western and Eastern Cape, now works at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), researching alcohol dependence, especially among women, both pregnant and not pregnant. She recently completed a project for the council on South African and American women’s magazines’ portrayal of anti-feminist messages through alcohol advertising and has written a policy brief for Parliament on the fact that dietary guidelines for South Africans contain no alcohol guidelines even for women who drink when pregnant. She has been chairperson of the Alcohol Expert Group, commissioned by the department of health to work on these dietary guidelines. She also worked as a doctoral and medical intern at the Medical Research Council, following her PhD in Psychology from the University of the Western Cape, and has since made presentations at conferences, including one at Howard University in Washington, DC, and to the Public Health Association of South Africa. A popular subject of radio and newspaper interviews, Jacobs uses the opportunities afforded her to disseminate information about alcohol dependency, especially for women who drink “in secret” because of the stigma associated with women who drink heavily. The subject of alcohol dependence began to interest her while she was growing up in a community in which substance abuse had been a problem for generations — she wanted to change the way people lived. She is particularly interested in behavioural modification research and how psychological issues affect people’s general wellbeing. The part of the work she enjoys most is the way in which women who have struggled with alcohol dependence for most of their lives describe the process of disclosing their stories to her as “healing”. — Ilham Rawoot