From the humblest of beginnings, Sebabatso Tsaoane is building a women’s health empire and championing it to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community can also receive reproductive health assistance. She is doing it all from a place of love and making sure that others get to experience it.
Sebabatso’s story began in a small village, Sediba Trust in Thaba Nchu, where she was born and raised. After school, Sebabatso attempted a psychology degree at the University of the Free State, but she quickly realised that the path would be too financially taxing on her parents. She soon transferred to a nursing degree, which allowed her to be credited for her psychology modules, which turned out to be just what Sebabatso needed in her life, as she had found her calling.
“Towards the end of nursing, we started doing sexual reproductive health and then we also started doing midwifery. That’s when I fell completely in love with it and I’m still here,” she says.
“I would describe myself as a very ambitious person,” explains Sebabatso. “I have big dreams and I’m a very lively person, and I just love living a colourful life. If there’s one word that I would use to describe myself then it is ‘love’, I love doing what I love and I love working with people that love what they’re doing.”
She credits her parents as her biggest inspiration, her biggest cheerleaders, and her earliest motivation. “They instilled the importance of having a good education because we didn’t have much,” said Sebabatso.
“They’ve always seen my potential and encouraged me to get an education as a way to get out of the situation that we were in.” She also explains that her “mother has always been my biggest source of confidence because she always instilled the idea that you need to be confident in your uniqueness. Even today she remains my biggest cheerleader”.
After being diagnosed with endometriosis and going through treatment, Sebabatso realised that the only reason she was able to get the treatment on time was because she was already within the medical fraternity. “I was doing a lot of reading up on it and I realised that there are so many women that only discover that they have endometriosis when they’re trying to fall pregnant and they’re unable to,” she says.
Using her new knowledge, her parents’ motivation, and her passion and love for people, Sebabatso founded a non-profit organisation – Black Women Arise Women’s Health Foundation – which she describes as an organisation “focused on promoting women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly women in disadvantaged communities”.
The organisation makes use of a mobile clinic to go into disadvantaged and hard-to-reach areas to provide free cervical cancer screening services and then do follow-up visits to ensure that no woman has to die from preventable cervical cancer. They also provide capacity building for professional nurses within the Department of Health and provide health education for more people to learn about cervical cancer to encourage women to get screened on time.
Her foundation also runs a midwife-led reproductive health clinic that is aimed at providing quality sexual reproductive health services, antenatal care, sexual reproductive health services, and baby wellness. Alongside these projects, Sebabatso is working at the University of the Free State, her alma mater, as a coordinator for midwifery practicals.
Sebabatso’s work has allowed her, as a founder and leader, to use her passion to address global conferences and travel the world advocating for women, amplifying the notion that there is a need to do better as healthcare professionals.
Despite only being 28, Sebabatso has already obtained a Master’s Degree and still looks forward to obtaining her PhD with a specific focus on public health. “I love the public health space,” she says, “so I would love to one day be considered as a global health expert because I feel like there’s so much that needs to be done, particularly in sexual reproductive health”.
Faith plays an important part in Sebabatso’s worldview, she says. “I believe that God created us all to come and give something to the world, so every time I wake up, I wake up because I believe that the fact that I’m still alive means I still have a lot to give. So, I wake up intending to give what I’ve been entrusted to give.”
Sebabatso believes that we are called to fulfil a certain purpose and believes that we all leave pieces of ourselves wherever we go. She also believes in making an impact in whatever you’re doing, however small.
Everyone’s journey is unpredictable, and Sebabatso’s is no different. “I didn’t know how I’d get to where I am, I didn’t even know how it would look, but I just knew I wanted to impact women,” she explains. “There have been times when I also wanted to give up, but I was clear about what I wanted to do, just keep the faith and keep going.
“I’m just here to make my mark. I’m here to walk in through doors that I believe God has opened for me”.
Text: WARREN HAWKINS Photography: GYPSEENIA LION