The ultimate optimist. That’s how Dr Vanessa Lynch sees herself – when asked how she would describe herself.
Lynch is the Regional Director for DNA for Africa and a Senior Government Affairs Consultant at GTH-GA, based in South Africa.
She founded the DNA Project in 2005 and, in 2021, launched DNA for Africa, dedicated to the use of advocacy outreach and forensic expertise to aid the development of DNA databases and casework programs throughout Africa.
Lynch is a key opinion leader in Forensic DNA policy and law and has been lauded for her leadership in driving the adoption of legislation to administer South Africa’s national DNA database, the first of its kind on the African continent.
Before all of this, she was a lawyer. She’s now passionate about fighting crime through science. Lynch entered this space after the murder of her father in 2004 in his Johannesburg home. Since her father’s passing, she made it her mission to help educate South Africa on the crucial role DNA evidence can play in helping to convict criminals.
“At the time, I was disillusioned at how the crime scene was handled and the lack of DNA infrastructure and policies that could have assisted in identifying my father’s perpetrator,” she remembers.
“That really got me started. Law is my background, so it got me lobbying our government to implement laws that will help create a DNA database to identify serial offenders and prevent tomorrow’s victims”.
Lynch said she is the ultimate optimist and sees the ‘better’ side of a human being, which keeps her motivated and drives her.
“I also see so much potential in Africa; the more I go into Africa, the more I find pockets of excellence. We must lead our younger generation into the future by showing how excellent we can be.
“It drives me when I connect people and realise: ‘Oh this is what you are doing‘, and we make these connections so that we can be so much stronger together,” she said.
‘It’s time to step up and speak up and take action‘ is Lynch’s favourite life quote. And it’s evident in her work that she’s active and trying to bring about positive change.
During August – Women’s Month – Lynch is even more saddened by the aggressiveness of men in the country.
“I think men need to step up. This culture of dominance and aggressiveness needs to stop,” she explains. The young men still have a chance to make things right; they must stand together with the nation. They need to change the narrative and redefine what it is to be a young South African,” she said.