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Importance of self-care under the spotlight at Women's Day event
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 10/08/2021

​​​The importance of self-care came under the spotlight during the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences' annual Women's Day Celebration hosted by the Vice-Dean: Social Impact and Transformation, Prof Pregala (Solosh) Pillay on Thursday, 5 August 2021.

Several high-profile academics and guest speakers from various industries shared their viewpoints during the online event.

In her opening address, the Chairperson, Dr Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola of the Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management described the theme of this year's Women's Day event – Self-care – “as a way to fill our cups so that we are able to pour out more to society and to other women".

“It (self-care) is a way of preserving women's physical, mental and emotional well-being, especially in a context where we are constantly facing exploitation of women's labour and bodies," Dubula-Majola added.

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, a medical doctor advocating for sexual and reproductive rights, universal health access, HIV care, adolescent services and pregnancy care, said being on the frontline in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has taught her the importance of exercising self-care.

“The issues that we advocate and continue to fight for, require a certain level of longevity, clarity and physical health that cannot be maintained without caring for oneself. That's why caring for myself has started to become a habit in everything I do – in my clinical practice, in my activism and in my intellectual endeavours. I am the first beneficiary of my own activism.

“As a community of professionals who are also part of the communities we come from, it is our priority to ensure that we are in the best shape to care for others. It is only then that we can truly reckon with our own humanity and extend humanity to others. Learning to say no has also been an important part of my self-care journey."

Prof Keymanthri Moodley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine and director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Faculty of Health Sciences at SU, said she became aware of self-care when she enrolled for a NBA at UCT in 2013.

The curriculum exposed me to the practice of mindfulness, which included meditation and yoga. It turned out to be the most important aspect of the curriculum as it taught me resilience and replenished me for the demands of my job. This practice continued to stay with me."

She has also added hobbies such as gardening and baking as “other mindfulness practices which allow me to renew my energy and refill the cup".

Agricultural journalist Ms Dawn Noemdoe is one of the driving forces behind digital agricultural publication Food For Mzansi, where she “shines a light on the achievements and often difficult journeys of under-represented communities in the agricultural sector, especially women."

She asked the question: “How do we afford women in the sector – the soil scientists, plant breeders, the ones operating the planting and harvesting equipment – the space and the time to reflect, replenish, recharge, rejuvenate and experience self-care?"

“The only way we can seriously change the game for women in this sector is if we become deliberate in supporting women to exercise self-care," suggested Noemdoe.

Dr Puni Mamdoo, a medical doctor specialising in Public Health Medicine with more than 15 years of experience in health systems strengthening and public health, made the case that women need to “fill up a collective cup" in order for self-care to take place.

“We have become isolated due to the pandemic and we don't really depend on each other anymore. We have become depressed, overwhelmed and lonely, and it has become hard for us to build the kind of relationships that we need in order to develop thought and to challenge ourselves.

“In this day and age, creating a diverse network of women around you is non-negotiable. You can't really say that you are a contemporary woman leader if the networks you've built are not diverse in thought, otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant."

In her closing remarks, Prof Pillay reiterated that “the strongest women are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors and fight battles that nobody knows about".

  • Photos (supplied): F.l.t.r. are Dr Puni Mamdoo, Ms Dawn Noemdoe, Prof Keymanthri Moodley and Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng.