I did not have the most normal childhood, so I was left alone a lot and had to navigate my way through each day, sometimes with the help of my helper. Both my parents are in healthcare and, when growing up under such a heavy medical influence, you tend to build an interest from a young age.
I recall my first lesson about puberty at school, about 12 years ago. By then, I already knew what HIV and Tuberculosis were, but had no clue about puberty and what it meant in the greater scheme of things. Women are born with a responsibility to bear life, even before they can choose if they would like that or not. Most responsibilities are born with rights, but most of women’s rights across the world are still disregarded on a daily basis.
Life started to make sense when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and, soon after, with endometriosis too. I learned that all my pain, the rapid weight gain and all other symptoms I could not explain were not my fault. The power to reproduce comes with an enormous amount of issues that many of us never asked for – and could never imagine facing.
It is estimated that girls from a marginalised background in South Africa can miss up to 50 days of school per year due to lack of sanitary towels, during their menstrual cycle. In a two year period, 40,000 school girls fell pregnant – 1,449 of them were in primary school, 190 of them between the ages of 9 and 11. Meaning that more than 1,600 of them had not even received formal education about sex and puberty.
My passion starts and ends with education in health and a lot in between. I’m doing my postgrad in Psychology and my goal is to protect and build our society through the fields of Psychology, women’s health and HIV. I chose to work with Fem because it is active in South African communities, where we hope to educate women and girls about sexual and reproductive health, as well as to protect their rights, including the access to safe and legal abortion care.
BY: Dineo Mokwena