The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - TEBOGO MONAMA

WHEN Queen Mo­hale was in pri­mary school, she and her fel­low pupils taunted an older pupil who was hav­ing pe­ri­ods be­cause they be­lieved the blood meant she was al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive.

Mo­hale said they bul­lied the girl, who could not af­ford san­i­tary pads. She re­called that one day the girl could not even leave the class­room dur­ing break be­cause her pe­ri­ods started and she had no san­i­tary tow­els.

“We peeked through the win­dows and sang songs about how she doesn’t bath. We all thought that the blood was be­cause she had slept with a boy,” Mo­hale said.

She said the sad­dest part was that teach­ers at the school did not stop them or ed­u­cate them about pe­ri­ods.

“The teach­ers didn’t even rep­ri­mand us. They didn’t even help her.”

The girl even­tu­ally dropped out of school be­cause of the men­strual is­sue and other mat­ters.

The need for men­strual health and san­i­tary pads hit closer to home for Mo­hale when her sis­ter could not af­ford them. Her sis­ter had to use cloths and some­times news­pa­pers.

“I watched my sis­ter be­ing on her pe­ri­ods and not af­ford­ing san­i­tary wear and de­cided that when I started work­ing and I could af­ford it, I would help other peo­ple,” Mo­hale said.

This is why Mo­hale de­cided to join the Trek4Man­dela team this year to try and raise funds for school­girls’ san­i­tary pads in an ef­fort to keep them in school.

“This is a way to atone for what I did to that girl. I also want to bring back dig­nity to men­stru­a­tion,” Mo­hale said.

When it was her turn to get her pe­ri­ods, Mo­hale – who was 16 at the time – was lucky. She was at a board­ing school in Glen Cowie and her mother sent her a lot of san­i­tary pads.

“When I started my pe­ri­ods, my mom sent me pads and I used a few and shared the rest with the other girls. I didn’t see my pe­ri­ods again for two months. When I went home, my mom took me straight to the clinic be­cause she thought I was preg­nant,” she laughs.

The 50-year-old said she is pas­sion­ate about ed­u­cat­ing girls. “I am pas­sion­ate about ed­u­cat­ing girls and equip­ping them with knowl­edge about their bod­ies to em­power them to rise above a so­ci­ety and fam­ily stig­ma­tised ap­proach,” she said.

Trek4Man­dela is not her first act for a good cause. In 2013, she ran the Soweto Marathon to raise funds for Tshego Kaku­lubela to get cochlear trans­plants. She man­aged to raise R23 000 and Tshego re­ceived his trans­plants.

Mo­hale started ex­er­cis­ing when she was 35 and when she turned 40 she de­cided to run an in­ter­na­tional marathon each year. She has since run the New York, Prague, Great Wall of China and Barcelona marathons, among oth­ers. Last month, she ran the Com­rades Marathon and missed the cut off mark by only 30 sec­onds.

“It was test­ing psy­cho­log­i­cally. I could feel that I want to go to the other side but my legs were too tired. Not fin­ish­ing the Com­rades Marathon was dis­ap­point­ing. How­ever, I learnt that I must live in the mo­ment and be mind­ful about what life presents to me at that mo­ment. To give my all to ev­ery­thing I do; train, show up, be con­sis­tent and fo­cus. I have learnt not to be at­tached to the re­sults and en­joy the process and the present be­cause I have given it my all.

“So when I was cut off by 30 sec­onds at 68km, I knew I had given it my all and I would come back next year stronger and wiser with the lessons learnt from my mis­takes. I am go­ing to Kilimanjaro with this in mind; it is not about the fall, it is about how many times you rise from dis­ap­point­ments,” Mo­hale said.

She has her sights set on sum­mit­ing Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro. “I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting to Uhuru. The in­ter­ac­tion with the group has been ful­fill­ing. I am look­ing for­ward to spend­ing 10 days with this group.”

She said sum­mit­ing would also be about pay­ing trib­ute to rac­ing driver Gugu Zulu, who died last year on the moun­tain.

“It will be emo­tional to be there to face what hap­pened last year. This is what en­cour­ages me even more.

“If some­body could sac­ri­fice their life to im­prove some­one else’s life, I also want to be like that per­son,” Mo­hale said.


DO­ING IT FOR THE GIRLS: Queen Mo­hale will be one of the climbers to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak next month.

KEEP­ING FIT: Queen Mo­hale sees life as a sea of chal­lenges that al­low her to help oth­ers.

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