Woman on a mission

2010-06-03 00:00

SOCIAL activist Dr Lungile Bhengu Baloyi is a woman on a mission — to see human potential unleashed and the people of South Africa contributing towards a safe, vibrant and prosperous African community.

As part of this mission, she has penned her first book, African Midwife (Change Beyond Form), a guide to social upliftment and spiritual transformation, and is a book packed full of personal life lessons and experiences.

For Bhengu Baloyi, who lives in Durban, her focus since she first started her career has been to create conditions which will encourage sustainable rural development, poverty eradication and rural women enterprises.

But she is concerned that, despite all the promises made by those in power and the legislation which has been passed, many South Africans continue to live in poverty.

Speaking at the launch of African Midwife at the KwaMuhle Museum in Durban, Bhengu Baloyi, who has a degree in dietetics and a doctorate in development administration, said: “I was 22 when I started working in the community at the Valley Trust [in the Valley of a Thousand Hills], where I saw children dying from malnutrition and women unable to look me in the face because of poverty. Poverty, or any form of pain or abuse, makes people lose the sense of who they are.

“I realised we have enough knowledge and government policies but look at where we are. By 2002, the government said there should be no one going to bed hungry, but we are now in 2010 and it is getting worse. The systems we have don’t always work because they were put in place by human hands.”

She added that one of the saddest things for her is that, despite all the changes for the good, divisions remain in South Africa. “We can never see the change we all want unless we go beyond the form … the issue of race, colour, size, whether you’re pretty or not,” she added.

That desire to help people realise their full potential was the reason she spent the past three years working on her book. And, with her first edition published, Bhengu Baloyi now hopes to see her work published in Zulu and the country’s other official languages, and if possible in braille.

One of her supporters, who hopes The African Midwife will do well, is Professor Malcolm Wallis, dean of management science at Durban University of Technology, who said: “I hope this book does well, not just in sales, but in impact. This country is alive but dying because values are under threat. Lungile is fighting to make sure we put values at the centre of what we do and what we are.”

Irwin Friedman, a one-time colleague of Bhengu Baloyi and now reasearch director at Health Systems Trust in Durban, agreed, adding that one of the first things that struck him about his former colleague at the Valley Trust, was her determination to eradicate poverty in the country.

“There are still huge numbers of people who don’t have enough to eat, who want to commit suicide because they don’t know how they will make ends meet.

“As a dietician and health nutritionist, Lungile has worked to overcome that,” he added.

“One thing we used to do in the Valley of a Thousand Hills was to deal with children who were malnourished … and we had to work out how to deal with that and not have that child come back again and again. Lungile believed that education was the way to do it, but she had a different approach. I didn’t know anything about empowerment until she came along.

“I remember this one woman came to us. She looked dreadful, was obviously very poor, very malnourished and had several children. Lungile adopted her and worked with her, and in a few months she underwent a transformation. Suddenly she started wearing nice clothes and make-up and her children got better.

“I used to think that those were just external things, but Lungile showed us that they were the physical manifestations of change through empowerment. Lungile never looked down on poor people ... she was never ashamed to befriend women like this, to take them into her home or to go to their homes.”

That care for the community shines through in African Midwife, a book which will leave you feeling uplifted and determined to be part of a change for good.


• For more information about African Midwife, contact Lungile Bhengu Baloyi via e-mail at lungiledr@tbnpartner.co.za or phone 072 235 0176.


• www.lungilebhengu.com

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