We Remember Professor Gita Ramjee
In his address to the nation earlier this month President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that November 25 - 29 would be set aside for mourning the thousands of lives lost in South Africa through the Covid-19 pandemic, gender-based violence and femicide.
Ramaphosa said that on these days the country's flag will be flown half-mast from 6am-6pm. He also called on all to wear black armbands or other signs of mourning to signify and respect those who departed.
Through our We Remember campaign, we too will pay tribute to some of the more than 20 000 people who have died due to the coronavirus pandemic and commemorate women who have died violently at the hands of men.
On such victim is Professor Gita Ramjee , who died from Covid-19 related illness in March.
As a former colleague Anthony Mbewu said: “She died of a terrible virus that has caused misery and grief around the world; yet she herself fought tirelessly against another virus, HIV, that has killed millions in South Africa and overseas.”
According to Mbewu, Ramjee was one of the first women research directors at the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the late 1990s, a few years after the liberation of the country in 1994.
At the MRC’s HIV Prevention Research Unit, she quickly established herself as one of the foremost HIV clinical trial investigators, not just in South Africa, but throughout the world. Ramjee conducted innovative and groundbreaking research to develop a gel that women could use to protect themselves from HIV infection.
At the time of her death Ramjee's son Rushil said: "She really believed in her calling in life and that was to make the world a better place in any way she could. My mother was not only a pioneer and champion in her chosen profession but a rock in our family too.
"It is tough to put into words how she was as a wife and mother ; kind, caring, loving, strong all come to mind when thinking about her. My father, brother and I are truly blessed. Her strength, strong will, determination and desire will continue to inspire us forever.
"My mothers legacy will continue through her work and us. We are so glad she touched so many lives and provided inspiration to health professionals around the world."
To the families of those who have died from Covid-19 or gender-based violence this year, we share your pain, we know their names and most of all, we remember.