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Zintle empowers young women to know their rights

Zintle Mbola, centre, during a support group session on a two-day camp for young women from Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare universities.
Zintle Mbola, centre, during a support group session on a two-day camp for young women from Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare universities.

Mdantsane-born Zintle Mbola dropped out of high school to look after her sister when she was just 15 years old.

Now 22, she works as a sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocate, educating young women.

Hosting support groups weekly with the NGOs Masimanyane and Mmoho, Mbola works with young women from Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare universities as well as girls from Loyiso, Mizamo and Mzomhle high schools in Mdantsane.

The support groups host 15-30 girls and young women regularly.

“I educate young women about their sexual rights, educate them about different types of family planning and how they work. I educate about the myths of abortion and homosexuality,” said Mbola, who studied primary health care at the Mdantsane Youth Academy and nursing via the online learning platform, Alison.

“When I was doing the primary health courses I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about my reproductive rights, and I thought about how many other women were like me and didn’t know about their rights or how to get contraception without proper information. It inspired me to go into SRHR advocacy,” Mbola said.

But it has become much more than just a job, and through the weekly support groups and one-on-one sessions Mbola has become a loyal confidant and supporter for many.

“When we have these support groups, I often then have a one-on-one session where they confide in me.

“I’ve noticed some girls have multiple partners, and because of the situation at home some cannot focus on their studies,” she said.

Collecting and donating necessities for the girls and young women in need, Mbola tries to assist where possible, attempting to make the home life of troubled young women a little better.

“I collect clothes, food parcels, sanitary towels and more as people come to donate. So far I’ve assisted 12 families of students from WSU and Fort Hare and five high school girls,” she said.

“I had to grow up and 'woman up' from Grade 8 and take care of my sibling and myself.

“I can say I never had it easy because every day was a hustle, so much so that I ended up dropping out of school. I have vowed to be a sister to anyone going through what I went through because I know what it’s like to go to class with an empty stomach,” Mbola said.

One of Mbola’s mentors, Thabisa Bobo-Myataza, said Mbola was a strong and supportive woman.

“She is part of our training programme and is extremely courageous in standing up for women’s rights, not only for herself but also for others, and this is evident through her work,” said Bobo-Myataza, who works for Masimanyane.

Mbola said seeing changed behaviour in young women was all the reward she needed.

“Seeing them fully participating in helping themselves and others do better really motivates me.

Whenever I think of giving up they remind me of how far I’ve come

“Whenever I think of giving up they remind me of how far I’ve come. And the 'thank you' messages I get are so heartwarming,” she said.

“As [Miss SA and Miss Universe] Zozibini [Tunzi] said, ‘women should take up space; cement themselves’. The most rewarding thing is seeing young women actually doing that. Information and knowledge are power to young women.

“As they lead their lives, educating their families and friends about sexual and reproductive health, they feel powerful and they redefine womanhood. And of course seeing the number of pregnant students in high schools decrease is very rewarding.”


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