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Tuesday, 01 June 2021

Rachel Kolisi opens up about life experiences

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Rachel was later joined by her rugby star husband, Siyamthanda Kolisi in an interactive hour-long conversation hosted by the HIV/AIDS Unit recently. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Rachel was later joined by her rugby star husband, Siyamthanda Kolisi in an interactive hour-long conversation hosted by the HIV/AIDS Unit recently.

The HIV/AIDS Unit recently hosted an interactive hour-long online conversation with Rachel Kolisi, who shared her experiences and challenges as a young woman.

A brilliant Public Relations Intern, Bonga Kubheka interviewed Kolisi and after the interview, Kolisi remarked by saying “You nailed it”. Head of the HIV/AIDS Unit, Melanie Marais said the event was an insightful conversation and many young women were able to relate to Kolisi’s experiences. Kolisi also shared how she and her husband, rugby star Siyamthanda started their foundation and that it was aimed at reaching out to communities in need.  “Her humbleness and openness about her own experiences and challenges as a young woman was commendable and it was clear that her intention was to build young women during this conversation,” says Marais.

“The questions really helped in steering the conversation to topics that Rachel was clearly passionate about such as the Kolisi Foundation and the work they do related to contributing to the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) and helping victims, as well as global social issues such as poverty.”

Kolisi also touched on the racial discord in South Africa and how people need to be more educated about these topics. She said systematic racism needs to be discussed more in schools so that young people are more educated and can therefore think critically about the world around them and thus how to behave in a society that is so diverse in race and culture.

Kolisi reminded the guests that there was a need to continue with programmes aimed at developing and empowering young people.  She said this could be through sports programmes and reaching out to those young people living in rural areas and ensuring them that nothing can stop them to fulfil their dreams.  Kolisi said that it could also be done by using “our own real-life experiences” to make young people understand mental health issues, advantages and disadvantages of using social media and the importance of making informed-decision in everything “that we do”.

The humble Kolisi also spoke openly about her own mental health challenges as a young girl, when she wanted to end her life at the age of 15 years.  She also reflected on how important it is to have faith and hope considering how far she came in life. In terms of addressing GBV, she said that at the Kolisi Foundation, they adopted principles by which everyone in their organisation lives by.  “We will definitely draw on this suggestion and apply it to our own programmes including the Amajita’s Men’s programme,” said Marais.

Kolisi said: “It gives you so much joy, you know to see South African beauty [Zozibini Tunzi,] being celebrated…I have chosen to expose myself to learning and a lot of unlearning as well and to challenge the idea of a beauty standard. What is that even? What is normal? Who decides what the beauty standard is Who decides what a societal norm is?”

She also reflected on the use of social media. “Social media is accessible to everybody all the time and it is also a decision that you make so if you feel like you can handle what goes on in social media, then, by all means, go for it, but if you feel like it is affecting you in a bad way, get off and stay off”.

Marais said this was an important piece of advice because “we know how important it is to have a healthy balance between social media and your mental health”.

Towards the end of the conversation, Siya Kolisi came to surprise the guests and greeted them. Marais asked if Siya would consider talking to our Amajita’s Men’s programme and they are open to it, so having Siya at one of Amajita’s webinars is definitely on the cards in the near future.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce