More and more people are trying to catch up with Rebecca Nyangaresi-Gatang’i. She’s a
fitness fanatic who often participates in triathlons, despite only learning to swim and
cycle a few years ago. In addition to these sporting events still being male-dominated,
there are also misconceptions about people of colour which can hold many back.
Nyangaresi-Gatang’i is leading the race to get more women involved in sport – and
smashing stereotypes along the way.
In 2016, she began Ketsh Up with her friend Bianca Reichelt. Based in Port Elizabeth, the
NPO encourages women from all walks of life to join them in taking up running,
swimming, and cycling. Offering beginners’ lessons, training sessions and coaching,
they’re giving future triathletes a head start.
Over 100 women have since joined the club, which has no membership fees. “We are an
inspired group who are determined to conquer our fears,” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i says.
Beginning a new activity can be scary. But together, these women are pushing their
limits and succeeding. “You’re a winner no matter what,” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i says.
Rika du Plessis
The Clanwilliam cedar is one of the few trees to have survived the Ice Age. Endemic to
South Africa, they’re the namesake of the beloved Cederberg mountain range. Standing
tall across the Karoo plains, the trees support an ecology known only to this region. But
today, there are only about 13 000 left in the wilderness, earning their place on the
IUCN Red List. Fortunately, their plight is being met by Rika du Plessis, a Cape Nature
Conservation Manager working to restore their population.
“The Clanwilliam cedar is part of our heritage,” Du Plessis says. But it faces many
threats. The hardy wood and bark make for appealing construction material, leading to
an uproar in deforestation. Their thriving nature is a catch 22 – the trees need fire to
ignite their growth, but recent outbreaks have burnt them to their core.
Global warming is hampering the natural fertilisation of spores that already take over
30 years to grow. With so many factors against them, Du Plessis is germinating as many
Clanwilliam cedars as she can.
Animals are not the only species that need to be protected. “Without any trees in the
world, there won’t be any life,” Du Plessis says. “We can never have enough voices to
promote and speak out for nature because nature can’t speak for itself.” There is still
hope for the Clanwilliam cedar, rooted in those ensuring the planet succeeds.
Skateboarding is beneficial for dogs – just ask Tom Vilakazi. His canine companion
often tries his paws at skating. The hound isn’t always successful, but he doesn’t need to
be as Vilakazi is the one using his board to make a difference. “I skate to save dogs,” he
says. By harnessing his passion for the sport, Vilakazi is creating a better life for the
animals in his community. This year, Vilakazi began UThando Lwenja, which means “for
the love of dogs”. He provides skateboarding lessons to kids in Sweetwaters, KwaZulu-
Natal and uses the profits to help animals in rural areas receive medical attention.
“Dogs are far more than
just protection,” Vilakazi says. “They have feelings too and they need to be loved.”
Having learnt to value them through Funda Nenja, he’s now passing on his knowledge
and experience to other youth.
“Improving the life of dogs makes me feel like I’m contributing to society,” Vilakazi says.
“I’ve realised that we are nothing without animals in this world.” With each trick on a
skateboard, happier days are guaranteed for these dogs.
If you contracted HIV, who would you turn to? Discovering your status is life-changing.
But disclosing it can make the situation more complex. Those who test positive still have
to brave stigma and some may even refuse treatment to avoid being victimised.
Dudu Ramorwalo initially responded to her diagnosis with disbelief. When she shared
the news with her family, their reassurance helped her adjust. But at her local clinic in
Johannesburg, Ramorwalo noted that other HIV-positive people had no support. “Most
people living with HIV were scared that they would be rejected,” she says. To ease their
fears and isolation, she founded the Asibambaneni Support Group in 2014.
Charlie Jacobs, a Mr Gay South Africa finalist, was also in denial until he realised the
pageant could be a chance to inspire others. “I started the Change the Stigma Project
after I saw the opportunity to show that ordinary people are actually living
extraordinary lives,” he says. One such person is Saidy Brown, who discovered she was
HIV-positive at the age of 14. She chose to share this in a tweet. “I could never have
imagined the reaction I have gotten simply by posting my status on Twitter,” she says.
“We live in a generation where people are more open to talking about these things.”
Activists such as Ramorwalo, Brown and Jacobs are changing perceptions about HIV
within the communities they’ve built. “Everyone deserves a chance in life to live without
being judged or discriminated,” Jacobs says.
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