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Trusting the young, building confidence

DSC01904I came across this tweet by one of my fellow Women Deliver young Leaders “Young people have suffered and continue to suffer, due to being excluded in decision-making. It is through these voices that they can become fully empowered to become leaders in the own right”.

It got me thinking about my journey as a youngster and newbie in academia, under the leadership of my two supervisors Prof Hannelie and Dr Moliehi. I was doing my second year as a Master of Pharmacy (Public Health and Management) student when I went to Prof Hannelie with an advert for a conference that would be hosted in the United States of America. I told her that I wanted to present my research at the conference, and I noticed that they offered a good prize for the best presenter at the conference. I found that bit to be more attractive. I remember the look on Prof Hannelie’s face, you know that ‘do you know what you are even saying?’ expression.

I later went back to her with a poorly written abstract, that I planned to submit. She said it was okay, but sent it back to me with much more colour than I had expected, and I mean red colouring. My confidence was a bit shattered, but I had more to lose if didn’t submit that abstract. I worked on it multiple times, sending it back and forth between my two supervisors, and eventually I sent it in. A few months passed, and I heard nothing from the organisers. On one December afternoon, I received an email stating that my abstract had been accepted. I jumped in excitement and then sent my supervisors emails. My excitement was short-lived because I didn’t really have funds available to finance my trip, and universities are not really interested in funding international trips for masters students (strictly an opinion).

My supervisors hustled and went to their absolute extreme lengths to get me funds. Dr Moliehi literally had to pay for my flights and then have the university reimburse her while Prof Hannelie paid for my conference registration. I had another problem though, I was going to present a poster for the first time in my life, and I didn’t know how to design one. Prof Hannelie is hands-on with tech art, but I bravely told her that I wanted the poster to be my own. I asked her to send me her past posters, so that I could create my ‘pretty poster’. For the first time, probably in the history of our relationship as supervisor and student, she trusted me and said ‘okay you can do this’.

I went home, and I started to work on my poster, putting my all in it because I had to impress her. I didn’t want to disappoint her for trusting me. I sent her the first draft and it was pink, yes it was really pink with a bit of white. She said to me ‘it looks very feminine’. I was not too sure of the colour, but the content had been well polished by her and Dr Moliehi. I then changed the colours and made it a little more attractive, had it printed the day before I was to catch my flight. The whole department wished me goodluck and Dr Moliehi was there every step of the way. I went to confidently present my research at a conference in the US, with other researchers from elite universities like Harvard, Stanford and MIT, to say the least. It was nerve wrecking for a young girl from Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (one of the previously disadvantaged universities). To cut the long story short I was awarded first prize for the best poster presentation in the Governance/Management/Human Rights/Economics track for presentations. And they gave me the money that was promised, in US Dollars of course, I was over the moon.

It would be nice to take the credit for this successful story, but I have to admit that it was the trust that was afforded to me by my supervisors whose primary aim was to empower me. They showed me that I could become better than I thought I could ever be; by teaching me countless skills. If it was not for their money, I wouldn’t have made the trip. We talk about tokenism and abuse of young people, but we do have pockets of excellence where the older generations want their successors to flourish in their endeavours. This particular incident taught me that I had the potential to achieve everything I wanted and the sky was not the limit, because I had these two women who could help me reach greater heights.

The morale of the story is that being young is a phase, and even more a gift that only you can make a dream or a nightmare, that is guaranteed to become a reality sooner than later. Ask your seniors to give you that independence and sometimes trust your craziness, I did. Aim to learn to excel with every task you undertake. Part of growing up comes from learning to walk without a helping hand.

Privilege

As my week at the ‪#‎AIDS2016‬ conference ends, I can reflect on a few lessons I learned in my mission of studying and understanding PRIVILEGE in depth. Privilege is ‘a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group’. While at the conference I was able to identify many privileges that I was granted throughout my life, and they made me ignorant of other people’s needs. But that is what privilege is meant to do right….. Privileges are given to the selected few or majority so that they can silence those without the same privileges and ignore them. Some of my privileges include being born to Christian parents, in a country that was run by a Christian government. South Africa was a one-religion state during apartheid and therefore other people were denied of their right to practice their religion, and that was okay to me because I was privileged. I was born female and I am completely happy with my gender, that is a privilege that blinded me when I heard of intersex and transgender cases. I haven’t mastered privilege, but I am still reading and exploring this concept. I’m looking forward to reading more about its influence on race, age, health, gender and economy

Africa Day 2016

Africa day is one for me to celebrate with pride
Being an African is associated with poverty begging and need in the global perspective
But to me it means something totally different;
The soil I was born on, is my inheritance from my ancestors
I delight in the colourful heritage that may have limited artefacts,
But is rich in stories, stories told to me by generations passed

My heritage may have been over-shodowed by the past injustices of colonialism,
But I refuse to let Imperialism define who I am
I am an African girl
Trying to explore womanhood
I believe in feminist ideologies, which promote my individuality
My Africaness is my greatest asset
Visa regulations attempt to make me believe otherwise
I accept that being an African comes with so much responsibility
I together with many other Africanists, have a continent to build
Being a proud African,
I want to be a part of every step
Of the process for redefining and reclaiming our dignity
I AM AN AFRICAN
Happy Africa Day to all of you

I bleed for Afrika

My Afrika, my home
When I look at my leaders
Leaders of the present generation
Promising to lead me to the once the mighty Garden of Eden
Land of Milk and honey
With the purest of hearts
And most gullible expectations
I looked up to them and hoped that they will lead me there

My Afrika, my dream
The same dream of African sovereignty that early leaders had
Ngungunyane, Shaka Zulu, Yaa Asantewa, Nzinga, Hailee Selassie
Retaliated and bled for for my home
Failure was not an option
They lost their lives, fighting battles
And wars where they clearly stood no chance
My home eventually was taken away from me

My Afrika, my agony
As I turned my heard
My home had become the property of foreign men
I was not recognised as a citizen of my own soil
I was slave in my home, and could run to no other
My home was divided and shared by foreigners in a foreign land unknown to me
My blood was more common to see than water
My wounds became a common flower to decorate ethnicity
I worked the land
And the lands of foreign men
If I didn’t work for no pay
My hands would be amputated
And legs removed if I was not killed
I was given a bible
And taught to pray, believe and hope for riches in heaven
Because my future on earth was slavery
I was told that I cannot think for myself
Because my mental capacity was inferior

My Afrika , my Hope
Hope returned when a new generation of leaders emerged
Nkwame Nkurumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Sefako Makgatho, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere
Came to life
Their quest for me to be a part of humanity gave me hope
Their intellectual freedom felt like home

My hope was soon short-lived when they fought against one another
One brother raised guns at another
They forgot about my sorrows
They forgot about the pains of their forefathers
Their hunger for power
Lust for women
Love for money
Made them become puppets in the hands of foreign men
I live in the the land of milk and honey
Diamonds are in my door step
I walk on Gold and platinum
Coltan is my inheritance
And oil my natural resource

My Afrika, My Pride
I am a young product of Afrika
Living in a new generation of slavery in my home
My brothers, my sisters die of starvation
Yet, my home grows chocolate, coffee and food that is extracted to feed elite few
My mothers, my fathers lose their dignity from poverty
Yet, my home is the source of mineral wealth that is extracted to enrich foreign men
While my countrymen drown in the Mediterranean
To subject themselves to slavery,
Which seems like a better option than the never-ending conflicts caused by my leaders
Mothers have cried, wept and pleaded for peace
After all, they are the ones to suffer most
Young children are raped, taught to kill and loot what does not belong to them
They are given guns to fight the battles of grown men that vowed to protect them and their futures

My Afrika
Where have we gone wrong?
When will this end?
Where are the young people?
Who will guarantee our future?

To my patient with love

You have heard that I exist
But you are still not sure if I am a real or just a myth
You have read the label I made
When mixing and compounding
That delicate fix, with love from me to you
Yes I write instructions, which you hardly ever read
Guiding you on how you should store my products
And keep them out of reach of children

You have been told that I love chemistry
So much that I was once known as a chemist
You heard that I make chemical reactions
And design drug relations
Apparently, I am good in numbers
But that could just be another stereotype

I calculate doses
And monitor kinetics
I lookout for errors, that is, medication errors
When granted the opportunity
I will be by your bedside to prevent danger from coming your way
When you get injuries in the middle of the night,
I get woken up too
Your government wants be available to you for 24 hours

You see me in the background
Sometimes at a retail store or hospital, just before you leave
With a pearl white coat and a smile to make you feel at home
I am always there to listen to your complains
After a long day in the queue to see your doctor
You come to me tired and worn out
You want me to do a miracle and have your medicines as expected
Maybe doctor didn’t prescribe what you wanted
But, I am always here to take the fall for it

Contrary to all the untruths you have heard or seen
I am a pharmacist
A legal drug dealer
Drugs are my products, just as you are my patient
I make drugs
I produce them in the best quality imagined
I will sleep in a lab, to crack that formula so that you will have a better tomorrow
I am a walking pharmacology encyclopaedia
With enough information to save your life
I am there to make sure, that after your long day of waiting to be seen by your doctor,
And referred to my other colleagues for therapy,
You will not go home with a bag of good wishes and prayers to help you recover
I am there to provide care for you
I may not do it as direct as your nurse will
Even If I am not there, remember your life depends on the drug I made for you

I agree, I am not always there for you to see me
I may be distant from you
But that does not mean that I do not care about you
Or contribute to your livelihood
Every time you take a tablet for that backache
Or capsule for your headache
Remember I am there for you
I am your PHARMACIST
Trust me; your life is in good and capable hands