As African women we know the struggles we face when it comes to accessing quality sexual and reproductive health services, especially if you are not privileged enough to afford private health care. Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, also known as Dr T, is a young woman who is passionate about making such services available to all regardless of economic status –including those marginalised because of their sexual and gender identities.
Dr T is a South African medical doctor, an activist, facilitator, speaker and columnist. Being a doctor has been her childhood dream. As soon as Dr Tlaleng knew what doctors did, she’s always wanted to be one. Now, Dr. T is a winner of the 2016 120 under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders and the Mail and Guardian 200 young South Africans in 2016.
Who is Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng?
I graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2007. As a student, I set up the first youth friendly clinic in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape as part of my rural community project under Lovelife.
Currently I run a Reproductive Clinic in Sandton and serves as the vice-chairperson of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition. I’m also a Medical Columnist at Sunday Times Newspaper, a Resident Doctor at Kaya FM, a facilitator and speaker.
What made you choose sexual reproductive health?
Sexual and reproductive health chose me. I had the first real inclination that I would work in this field during community service year; while I was working in the West Rand clinics in Johannesburg. I had many patients, often young women who consulted with me for medical issues and somehow they would end up opening up to me regarding their sexual health and relationship issues.
It was very rewarding and I think the process was organic in that it is the patients who found me receptive enough to share their experiences. I remember one of the days when I had more patients waiting for me in the parking lot than inside the hospital, to talk about sex and ask questions.Sexual and reproductive health chose me - Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng Click To Tweet
What is the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition all about?
The Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition, is a civil society organization made up individuals, academics, researchers, activists, service providers etc.
We believe in, and are creating, a future informed by an intersectional sexual and reproductive justice perspective. Equality, dignity and bodily integrity to inform services, information and resources and options that are provided to all including marginalised sexual and gender identities.
Tell us about your experience at the Johns Hopkins University and being in the top 120 under 40?
The trip to the USA was an amazing trip. I am one of 40 winners and one of 10 invited to the USA to receive the award in person. I spent time in Baltimore, Washington and New York.
The time at Johns Hopkins was really special as we attended a lecture by Professor Mosley, who is one of the top rated lecturers at Johns Hopkins.
What impact would you like to make in your field?
I envision a world where all people regardless of gender, orientation, geography, disability or economic status are at the centre of reproductive health agenda and service provision.
As an advocate for reproductive justice, I dedicate my time and expertise to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.
What are some of the day to day challenges of your job and how do you overcome them?
The main thing is physical and mental exhaustion, one has to be emotionally present for all your patients. Sometimes one goes from a therapy session, to doing procedures followed by consultations. By the nature of the field, many people have really emotional stories and experiences and it can be exhausting but also rewarding, especially on a busy day.
It is for this reason that debriefing and self-care is of the most importance for one’s own emotional and psychological wellbeing.Self-care is very important for one’s emotional & psychological well being- @drtlaleng Click To Tweet
How do you stay inspired?
The struggles are real and very personal. Our existence as black women is political and we can never switch off from the struggles of gender politics, racial oppression and the quest for economic freedom.
The vision of a just world in which we as black women thrive and not just survive is further compromised because many women remain landless and unable to have shelter and food security. The daily experiences of not only my patients but also of my own in navigating an unjust world keeps me inspired.We can't switch off the struggles of gender politics & racial oppression - @drtlaleng Click To Tweet
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you about being a successful career woman?
I do not think you can ever prepare for all possibilities especially in business or regarding careers and people may try but they too cannot tell you all there is to know.
I have been fortunate to have a mother who was a working mother and career driven as a result of her modelling I have had no issues or inner battles about family life versus commitment to my career.
Is there anything that you would change about the career choices you have made?
Not a single thing. I know for sure that I am in the right field.
What is your advice to the young women out there that want to follow in your footsteps?
Medical school is tough. You will break but you will rise and you will realise your dream. No matter what the world tells you, you are beautiful, you are intelligent and you were born with all the power and are deserving of a good life.
You can catch Dr T on Kaya FM 95.5 Gauteng and Al-Jazeera channel 406 on DSTV.