FOR A NOBLE CAUSE
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.