Lessons from the World: A Mother's Day Tribute Inspired by breast cancer lobbying on Capitol Hill
In September 20, 2010, the NBCC launched Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®, a call to action for policymakers, researchers, breast cancer advocates, and other stakeholders to end the disease by January 1, 2020. NBCC advocates believe that we will end breast cancer by focusing our efforts on two key areas: learning how to prevent the disease from developing, and learning how to prevent breast cancer metastasis from taking lives.
A seismic paradigm shift in the global breast cancer DIALOGUE has occured and the journey to CHANGE is now in full swing.
The Deadline 2020 movement landed on African yesterday via Johannesburg. For BreastSens, NBCC's efforts are not solely for America but for the world. People in poor countries bear the highest cost of lives lost to CANCER. (72 per cent of global cancer deaths are borne by people leaving in developing countries). Women are most impacted because of their social location - oppressed by gender inequity, poverty, HIV/Aids, unemployment, lack of a VOICE due to a denial of equitable access to EDUCATION.
BreastSens appeals for support for its MORAL and POLITICAL campaign to fight poor Black Breast Cancer. (79.2 of South Africa's total population is Black. More than 63 per cent is female. President Zuma said in his State of the Nation Address on 15 February 2012: Women face the quadraple burden of poverty, inequality, unemployment and HIV/Aids (and other health issues. CANCER).
We call on you to be outraged by the structural and socio-cultural barriers to care faced by women like patient H ( whose situation IGNITED me to TO REALLY ACT on Black breast CANCER in South Africa and the REST of the CONTINENT).
She is a working mother with severe disease who has been forced into poverty and homeless by her employer EdgarsSA, through their withholding of her salary for the past 2 months. Her Human Resources manager has drowned her in a never ending avalanche of paper work. The want her to justify her disease. Prove that she away from work because she has breast cancer.
The tragedy is, patient H is her two children's sole provider. Her youngest child, patient K (6) was born with a defective heart and had to undergo corrective open heart surgery. She is on chronic heart medication, received via the public health system because her mother is part of the working poor. The withholding of the family income has gravely interfered not only messed with Patient H's access to treatment care but it has also interfered with this child's medical care too. Her family has been forced to move from their home - a backyard shack in Soweto due to patient H's inability to pay rent for the past 2 months. This all tanks to Edgars' tardy handling of their employee of 9 years' medical and family in crisis issue. (The GOvernemnt of South Africa is EQUALLY MORALLY LIABLE because of their POLITICAL FAILURE to treat CANCER as the NATIONAL PRIORITY it OUGHT to BE. Edgars is allegedly waiting for PAYMENT CLEARANCE from the National DEPARTMENT of LABOUR before they can start paying Patient H the 75 per cent of her salary due to her on MEDICAL GROUNDS).
Ironically, BreastSens learned of the scope of patient H's dire straits on May 1 - WORKERS' DAY. Her plight was immediately brought to the National Health Department's attention. And an emergency meeting was procured and held on Wednesday May 2 with Director Sandhya Singh of the Ministry. Present were BreastSens (Kwanele Asante-Shongwe), patient H and (Patient R - 28 years old) - another displaced young mother of three kids below age seven -battling with breast cancer and HIV/Aids.
I kept in touch with both women from Washington, DC to monitor progress received from the National Health Department in response to the meeting held. Both women reported no progress but Patient K - the unemployed mother, has been put in contact with Social Workers. We trust that she is fine because her usual avalanche of "please call me" texts messages has NOT been received in the past 7 days. Patient H, the working mother, has not been as blessed. She has fallen between the proverbial systems cracks because SHE WORKS and DOES NOT QUALIFY for Social Services.
My enraged texts to the Health Department's Director Singh from Washington yielded another immediate response. The Director called me back (to save me personal call expenses) and she undertook to attend to the patient H's with greater urgency. A State social work official did call H. But, sadly asked her to come in today (May 11) to EXPLAIN her circumstances again.
I spoke to H after landing Deadline 2020 on African soil via JOZI (South Africa) and she gave me the update above. She continued "I just wish I had the social worker's cellphone number so I can cancel the appointment. Having through this (RETELLING HER TRAUMA to another Government official) is not good for me."
It is Mother's Day tomorrow. There will be nothing HAPPY about this day for Patient H, Patient K and her older brother Thokoza* (12). He will continue to rebel and run away from home because of his perceived neglect by his mother who plays favourites by fussing over his little sister K's health and food security at his expense. Poor boy will grow up with hate because he is now living with a mom who scuttles to pick up bread crumbs from under relatives' tables to fight the beast of poverty latching at her chemotherapy dried heels. Somebody please pass this on to someone somewhere who cares and can help TANGIBLY and DECISIVELY end this MADNESS. Save Patient H from this raging nightmare and HELP ME find some sleep so I can proceed with the greater work of STOPPING breast CANCER on the MOTHERland.
Appeal: Kwanele Asante-Shongwe is an unpaid social activist who has not been able to hold a paid employment due to her heart condition - CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE, developed from the anthracycline based chemotherapy (Adriamycin) she received for her breast cancer. She has lived off financial support given by her ex-husband and father of her two beautiful children - Isaac Oupa Shongwe '87 (Wesleyan University - www.wesleyan.edu). He was in the same class as Ted Kennedy who was recently in South Africa on April 27 to receive Nation's Highest Honor bestowed on the late Senator Kennedy - http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/4/prweb9439165.htm
Kwanele (formerly Molebatsi Pooe-Shongwe) is also graduated from Wesleyan in 1994)
Please help with donations of technological equipment to to enable me and my NGO BreastSens continue with our advocacy work. We need four laptops, 2 iphones, 2 ipads, two smart pens and 2 Kindles. My 76 year old mother who educated me out of poverty and was my first feminist teacher has agreed to start a blog entitled "Mom Says" in conjuction with my "Restore the African Woman's Dignity" column to galvanise a pro-poor working class mothers' CIVIL RIGHTS - focusing mainly on the key areas of GENDER EQUITY, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and HEALTHCARE and PROMOTING ACCESS to EDUCATION for the African GIRL CHILD as a means to them acquiring A VOICE which will TRANSLATE to CHOICE and ultimately to LIFE.
Most important, mom and I would love to earn a livelihood so we can build our shared dream home. She birthed me and gave me life. Supported and made me VERY MAD during my CANCER BATTLE. But now we have both found our individual VOICES & CALLING and we commit to work and encourage our African female family to do the same.