As the world observes the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (from November 25 to December 10), spare a thought for Ntombesintu Mfunzi.
The Nedbank Running Club star is a rape survivor, having endured a horrific rape ordeal back in 2016. But because she chose to be a victor, she has become an activist against sexual violence as she openly shared her ordeal while encouraging many women to not allow their experience to get them down.
She has told her story and how running helped her cope with and get over the repercussions of the incident which could easily have seen her dead, in a book called Yoyisa (Overcome) written by yours truly.
Rape is a depressing crime and the reality is that not enough is being done to rid society of the scourge. Mfunzi, though, has managed to make her story inspiring, and the fact that she has gone on to continue running and excelling following that ordeal has seen her become a beacon of hope for many survivors.
Though not a qualified counsellor, she has found herself on the other side of the phone line speaking to a rape survivor sharing their ordeal for the first time.
And many of those interactions have ended with the caller feeling much better.
Now seven years after the ordeal, Mfunzi has “amazingly” become a mother and is living proof – as she says in the book – that rape is not a death sentence.
She had long given up on parenthood, having tried in vain for a baby and then opting to “mother” her brother’s children.
Now she is a proud mother of a three-month-old son, Aphola – which means the wounds have healed – and she is loving every moment of it.
Incredibly, Mfunzi never really stopped running during her pregnancy as she participated in numerous 10km races in her home city of Gqeberha and won a few of the races for her age (40-49 years) category.
She explains that she found her inspiration to run while pregnant from Irvette van Zyl, who won the Soweto Marathon while expecting a child a few years ago.
Mfunzi says she was keen to show women, particularly Africans, that pregnancy does not equate to being incapacitated and she hopes that she has inspired many to keep active throughout the nine months.
“Can you believe I ran five kilometres in 28 minutes five days before I gave birth,” she chuckles. “At seven months I placed third for a 10km in 49 minutes. And now I am reaping the benefits of having kept active during pregnancy because it was not too hard to get back into action after the baby was born.”
Mfunzi has already got back to racing, just three months after giving birth via C-section, and has been attaining podium finishes.
She has big plans for the 2024 running year and as the likes of Van Zyl have shown, women often perform much better post-birth. So watch out for great performances by Mfunzi next year.
In a country where GBV is rife and many a woman lives in fear, Mfunzi should surely be celebrated as an icon of victory against the scourge.
* Should you want to buy the book Yoyisa, contact Matshelane Mamabolo via Facebook, @Tshiliboy on X and Instagram, Whatsapp 082 798 8772.