Thursday, 28 January 2016

Sinazo Didiza on The Platform

Sinazo Didiza is an Advocate for Females' Reproductive Health Rights, she's the founder of Sexual Health Rights and Advocacy Foundation. Sinazo is the Youth Center Program Coordinator at LoveLife, she's currently studying for her Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Fart Hare, and she recently completed a six-weeks Mandela Washington Fellowship in Civic Leadership At Arizona State University in the USA.

She steps on The Platform to tell us about her experience in social work, her Mandela-Washington Fellowship experience and her meeting with Dr Lin Fan Wang. 

ThankGod: Thank you Sinazo for accepting to step on The Platform.

Sinazo: It's a pleasure being here.

ThankGod: Tell us about yourself, where you are from, growing up, education and what you do generally?

Sinazo: I am a social worker by profession, a human rights activist that grew up in Mthatha, a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. I studied my primary education at James Kobi Junior Secondary school and I later studied high school at St John’s College, one of the good public schools in Mthatha. I am also the Founder and Director of Sexual Health Rights and Advocacy (SHERA) Foundation, a volunteer initiative that seeks to promote and improve access to sexual reproductive health care for women and youth.

ThankGod: You are an advocate for Females Reproductive Health Rights, what motivated you into this cause?

Sinazo: Growing up as a young person in my community I observed there is a lack of access to sexual reproductive health information and services. Lack of access to sexual reproductive health contributes to a number of inter-related social ills such as teenage pregnancy, infant mortality, maternal deaths, HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted infections. My passion to advocate for female’s reproductive health rights is motivated by the fact that sexual reproductive health rights are a legal entitlement and a basic need, However there are factors that inhibit fulfillment of this right. I saw the need to empower young people with accurate information regarding their human rights sexual and reproductive health. I am using the behavioral change model to build the capacity of young women and youth to be able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding their sexual health.

ThankGod: You were faced with a lot of challenges, especially raising funds for your education but against all odds you graduated, how did you pull through?

Sinazo: One of the things that motivated me was having a vision for my life and working hard towards achieving that vision. There is a phrase that says “where there is a will, there is a way” these words kept me going even in the most difficult times when I felt like giving up, but giving up was not an option. I became inquisitive, ambitious and I searched for opportunities by reading and networking with people. In 2010 I applied for a scholarship which was sponsored by the Department of Social development. I was awarded the scholarship and it covered all my undergraduate studies.

ThankGod: In the SDGs, goal 5 talks about Gender Equality, what steps are you taking to make it a reality as an advocate for women?

Sinazo: To ensure that gender equality becomes a reality I have established a health ambassadors clubs in school and out of school. The health ambassadors club targets adolescent girls and boys who are between the ages of 12 to 18 years. These young people are equipped with life skills and knowledge regarding gender equality, women empowerment and human rights. I feel that it is very crucial to involve boys and men in promoting gender equality because women cannot achieve gender equality in isolation. To achieve gender equality there is a need to acknowledge diversity and to challenge gender stereotypes which violate the rights of others. Through the health ambassadors clubs I want to promote substantive equality by giving girls and boys an equal opportunity.

ThankGod: In May 2013, you earned a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work, and you are currently studying for your Master's Degree still on Social Work. Where did this overwhelming passion for Social Work come from and why Social Work?

Sinazo: My passion for social work was motivated by the need to promote social justice and also the need to ensure that people enjoy their basic human rights free of prejudice and oppression. People have strengths and a great potential and they should be empowered to realize this potential and use it to develop themselves and their communities. I have worked as a social worker focusing more on youth and community development. Through the work that I am doing as social worker I have had the opportunity to advocate, inspire people and to learn from the experiences of others.

ThankGod: Among the class of Mandela Washington Fellows for 2015, you were part of the 100 young persons selected to participate in a six-week Professional Development Experience in the US, tell us about it?

Sinazo: As part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship I had an opportunity to work with Women’s Campaign International to gain a professional development experience. Participating in the professional development experience enabled me to learn and develop professional skills that would allow me to develop and manage a non-profit organization. Among the skills I gained are organizational management, programme development, fundraising, project monitoring and evaluation. Working with Women’s Campaign International gave me an opportunity to work with an enthusiastic team which has worked with me in raising funds for SHERA Foundation. With only a few months since SHERA Foundation was established, the organization was awarded a grant by MTV Staying Alive Foundation to implement a project that improve the lack of access to sexual reproductive health and rights in Mthatha.

ThankGod: As part of your Professional Development Experience, You were hosted by the Philadelphia based organization Women's Campaign International and you met with Dr. Lin Fan Wang of the Mazzoni Center. Share your experience meeting Dr Lin & what you learnt?

Sinazo: I met Dr Lin Fan Wang who works at Mazzoni center to learn from her and her organization about different interventions they use in working with young people in the area of sexual reproductive health and rights. Meeting DR Wang inspired me to acknowledge that sexual reproductive health rights are inherent to all human being regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. I also learnt the value of working collectively by establishing partnerships with other organizations and community groups which have similar interests.

ThankGod: Final word before we go, advice to young people around the world. 

Sinazo: If you don’t believe in your own dreams then who will? My advice to young people is that they should think beyond their current situations and believe in themselves and their potential. Have a vision for your life and make every effort to achieve it. Young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow and great leaders are visionary, informed and they are committed to their goals. Find that vision and set achievable goals for yourself.

ThankGod: Thank You Sinazo for talking with me, it was a great interview, I wish you the best in all your pursuit. Cheers!

Sinazo: Thank you for the great interview ThankGod.
This interview was conducted by ThankGod Okorisha, All rights reserved, 28th January, 2016.

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