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Black, female and the head urologist

Gauteng
Johannesburg – When she was kicked out of school as she sat for her final matric exams in 1989, no one knew she would become the country’s first black female urologist.

At just 17, a heavily pregnant Dr Evelyn Moshokoa packed her belongings and took the four-kilometre journey back home to her parents’ small house in Kgapane township, Limpopo.

The pain she endured and countless nights filled with tears would sharpen her resolve, allowing her an opportunity to hone some of the life skills she would need to climb ladders to where no other black woman in the country had ventured.

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She is one of 250 urologists in the country, an extremely scarce skill which still struggles to attract women for various reasons.

That she would do great things with her life was a mission of hers. However, even she had not imagined this was where her tears and sweat would land her.

Moshokoa’s bright and bubbly personality failed to hide the weight of her past as she intently explained how having being born at a farm 44 years ago pushed her to go back to school to repeat her matric after giving birth to her daughter, the reason she was expelled from school.

“I went back the following year and I wrote my matric and did wonders, I was top six best performing student in 1990,” Dr Moshokoa said during her interview with Independent Media at her Centurion home.

“When I grew up it was very tough at home; I knew I had to get out of that situation and I knew that only I could work to get out of that.

“Having a child was not part of my plan to escape the poverty, it was a very depressing time in my life. When I was home with my daughter, she was my alarm, I would be breastfeeding and studying at the same time.”

Having survived the socio-economic trappings that many who grew up under similar conditions succumbed to, with counsel from her High School Science teacher, Bernard Manyana, she enrolled for medicine at then-Medusa, where she received her qualification in 1996.

At a medical conference in Washington in 2000, Moshokoa – who was a trainee surgeon at the time – knew after encountering women who specialised in urology that it would be her pursuit.

She did not know any female urologists at the time, she said, further warning that this very reason was behind why some women had never dared to enter the career field as it seemed foreign to women.

It was not easy in the beginning, she revealed, explaining that during her early days as a urologist male patients simply declined to be examined by her, another factor which has turned some women away.

Yet Moshokoa has come to realise that urology is as best suited for women as it is for men to practise.

“There are many women who have urinary incontinence, who wet themselves and do not want to be seen by men, and I can work with them and make them dry because I can literally be in their shoes.

“But we can talk about it comfortably and even laugh about it. Even some men, if they have erection problems, they don't want to talk to other men. They will tell you I'm actually happy I'm seeing a woman,” she said.

Her role at the University of Pretoria has eased contact with students who she said were still taken aback to discover she is a woman and head of the urology department.

When, in 2012, the university produced its first black urology graduate, Moshokoa realised the extent the department had transformed since she got there in 2006.

“I don’t doubt that I am a role model; there’s no female who has headed any urology department in this country, let alone in Africa.

“And being in a historically Afrikaans university and being a head there made me realise that I can only be a softened leather. I have always known that I have a purpose, otherwise I would have left a long time ago,” she said.

As a handful of young black female urologists make it up the ladder, Moshokoa said she has now reached her peak from where she was “enjoying the view”.

The Star

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