Meet Cher Petersen, one of Stellenbosch University's remarkable alumnae. Cher believes you have to find every opportunity that brings you closer to where you want to be in life.
In 2012, during her final year of high school, Cher took a part-time job at MFM 92.6, SU's campus radio station. This would set her on a trajectory in the media, albeit with a few detours.
She grew up in Rustdal, a suburb in Kuilsriver in the Western Cape. However, she was othered by her peers because she was queer - a term reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community encompassing the variety of gender identities and sexual orientations within the community. It is about embracing one's authentic self and reveling in the idea of fluidity in identity outside the constraints of the gender binary and boxed sexuality.
At the time, she says, she did not have the vocabulary to express that feeling.
“I found it incredibly difficult to connect with kids my age because I was a person of trans experience, and I was not out yet."
In 2013, Cher started her first year of the BSc Biodiversity and Ecology programme in the Faculty of Science at SU and continued to work at MFM, eventually hosting radio shows. By this time, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the media.
She completed her BSc degree in 2016 and took on a job as a lab assistant at SU but continued working at MFM. She would work in the lab during the day and at night, between 19h00 and 22h00 she would be live on radio.
“I found working in the lab incredibly lonely and after a tragic event at work involving a colleague, I took time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my career. And I knew I wanted to pursue a career in media."
Cher could not afford to stop working while figuring out her next steps as she was paying off a substantial amount in student debt. This motivated her to explore alternative income streams via an online platform. These were challenging times, but she was ultimately able to overcome these and emerge stronger.
She found it difficult to land jobs in other areas of media because she did not have media-related qualifications. In 2019, she was accepted into the BA Honours in Journalism programme at SU, a programme that only accepts 25 students per year. Her studies were covered by a bursary from Anet Pienaar-Vosloo, a philanthropist with close ties to the university.
After internships and positions at various publications and media houses in Cape Town, Cher now works as a Communications Officer at Slum Dwellers International (SDI), an organisation that is a voice for the global poor. Cher is also raising funds for her gender confirmation surgery on BackABuddy, which represents a major milestone in her medical transition.
“I believe you have to find every opportunity that brings you closer to where you want to be in life. I find that we sit and daydream, but we lack the action and without the action, nothing of note will happen in our lives".
PHOTO: EDO Photography - https://edophotography.co.za/