Video worth sharing

Posted in personal, Uncategorized on November 11, 2007 by melissadouman

This is an inspiring video that is worth a watch


When a man walks into a bar slideshow

Posted in general on November 11, 2007 by melissadouman

When a man walks into a bar

Posted in personal with tags on November 8, 2007 by melissadouman

s6000141.jpgman in bar photo melissa.jpg

Man at a bar in Melrose Arch Photo:Melissa Douman

Bars in recent years have become trendy hotspots and social hubs where men and women flock to not only for a good night out but also for the opportunity to meet someone special.

Unbeknownst to most there is a psychology behind the types of bars that people go to, the types of drinks that they order and also the clothes that they wear. Certain types of women get picked up by certain types of men and when one understands the psychological dynamic the prospect of hitting it off with a potential suitor found in a bar may seem bleak.

The picture that makes itself vivid in the mind when one thinks of a bar is the picture of what a bar used to represent- dirty, wooden floors, a karaoke machine, small dance floor, pool tables and a bar with a sticky wooden counter that serves beer, brandy, whiskey and similar hard spirits.

Though these bars still exist, the face of modern bars represent something different like fluorescent lighting, the latest music, and modern furniture that give the bar a minimalist yet trendy appeal.

Different bars cater to different groups of people. You get your sophisticated bar that caters to people who have established themselves in the working environment, who fit into the over thirty category. They would treat these bars like they would an expensive restaurant and get all dressed up flashing a lot of bling and perfuming the room with the latest fragrances.
Then you get bars that play soothing music and cater to the class of people who wear smart but casual attire and go there feeling a little more chilled out.

Different types of bars cater for different types of people like BEE bars that cater to the BEE group of people, your expensive bars that cater to the elite and your trendy loud bars that cater to a younger more carefree generation.

Though what is fundamentally significant to all these bars is the fact that every social bar is an opportunity to meet new people. “So depending on the type of male or female attention one is hoping to attract, the selection of bar is very important,” explains Melissa Card a Psychologist.

s6000146.jpgPhoto Melissa Douman

What one needs to consider when going to a bar is the type of attire that one dresses themselves in as this says a lot to the opposite sex. Kyle Williams, a 26 year old I.T specialist says “that it is important to know that when one wears a very skimpy outfit, a man hoping to get lucky that night will probably target that female first.” There is a general consensus by most men that a suit on a women doesn’t get her very far either as men do not like too much to be left to the imagination. The general rule of dressing says Card is that “if you are going for short on the bottom, be sure to cover on the top and if you are going for a plunging neckline, be sure to cover up on the bottom.” A jeans and a t-shirt gives a guy the impression that you are the girl next-door and no man is looking for the girl next door in a bar, says Ebraheim Cajee, a manager at a popular cocktail bar.

“The types of drinks that a woman orders in a bar should also be taken note of,” says Card who explains what each drink means:

200570367-002.jpgPhoto courtesy of Gelty images

Ordering a glass of wine as opposed to a bottle gives the man the impression that the women is pretending to be something that she is not. This more so in your elite and sophisticated bars because their immediate impression of her is that she can’t afford to buy the whole bottle. On the other hand the woman may just not have somebody to share her bottle with.

A man views a whiskey drinker as a woman who knows what she wants out of life and this suggests to him that she is probably ready for a stable relationship whereas Brandy is viewed as a harder drink than whiskey, a woman who loves her brandy creates an impression in the guys mind that she could possibly be an alcoholic.

For most men, a woman who orders a beer at a trendy elite social bar is just uncouth.

Cocktails are a safe choice of alcohol as advertisers have made them trendy and they seem to be the preferred choice by both men and women.
However like a woman who orders vodka (martini drinkers), flamboyant cocktails suggest that the woman wants to let loose and express her wild side that has been dormant for a period of time.

Virgin cocktails do not necessarily reveal that the woman is a virgin, but rather that she is conservative and may be a little less free than a flamboyant cocktail drinker.

Pretentious people who are not yet comfortable with their individuality and who have not really developed a taste for alcohol may go for well-known cocktails like Cosmopolitans and Apple Martinis because this is what shows like Sex and the City depict to be cool.

A woman who is serious about her social life will order a specific type of drink and unconventional drinks like Martini Rossoues and Caiperhinia reveal that the woman has acquired a taste for that drink because she was brought up on it or that she is a-typical. This type of women embraces her uniqueness and individuality and is looking for a suitor with his own sense of individuality.

Another feature commonly found in a bar is the pick-up lines used by men and women alike when trying to snag their potential suitor.

Ladies outside the barPhoto Melissa Douman

Women who succumb to the charm of a pick up line are also categorised says Card who explains that there are three categories of women prone to fall for one.
The vixen is the type of woman who believes that she is attractive and will therefore feel inflated when a man approaches her. She will act surprised and charmed by his attention but secretly she had already spotted him before he approached her and therefore has manipulated him into approaching her. “Men read body language not words,” says Card. She is the type of women who went to the bar without the intention of spending any money but would still get to drink on someone else’s expense. She is the type of women who would play along with even the crudest pick up lines like “Gee, that’s a nice set of legs, what time do they open?” says Card.
The borderline woman is the kind of woman who appears normal and cool in a bar but is borderline neurotic or psychotic. One should be weary of this woman as she appears to be the perfect girl, not over the top or the faded wall flower. Her temperament is cool and fun. When a man takes this woman home he needs to be very weary of how he breaks her heart for she is the type of woman who will take a key to the guys car and write the words “BASTARD WHO CAN”T BE TRUSTED” on its body.

Then you get the Sweet woman who will generally fall for the charming guys who flatter her telling her that she is sweet and beautiful and wonderful. On these types of women Jonathan Druoin a 21 year old law student would use his favourite line “Am I dead angel? ‘Cos this must be heaven.”
This is the type of thing a dependent woman wants to hear because she is afraid of being alone and desperately wants to be loved by any man who is willing to love and adore her. She cannot be without a relationship for too long because the relationship provides her with a certain sense of security emotionally and materially.

girl-in-bar.jpgPhoto Melissa Douman

If there are categories of women who succumb to pick up lines, there must be categories of men who use them.

The narcissist is the type of man who is out there to make himself feel happy and make his ego feel good. He preys on vulnerable and dependent women as they often do what he wants and strokes his ego. The narcissist is not interested in the woman’s hopes and dreams and her emotional needs. It is all about him and this makes a dependent woman, his target.

He is manipulative in his words and actions. In the beginning will tell the women nice things and flattering things to make her fall for him. He will be the sweetest man until he has his claws clutched firmly into her and then slowly will start manipulating her and shooting down her hopes and dreams, making her believe that whatever he says is right until he has got her right where he wants her as the wilting wallflower who dresses to suit him, speaks to praise him and wakes up at the crack of dawn to decorate his breakfast table with food that he likes.
“Stay away from this man,” warns Card. “He is not the kind of man any woman should be dating.”
Though a narcissist is attracted to strong and opinionated women, they pose a challenge for him, one that he must overcome. Statistics show that between 40-45% of these relationships end up in divorce.
The Narcissist should he end up marrying a dependent women, will be happy because he knows that she will always be around. But the probability of this man cheating on her is high as he would get bored of her lack of opinion. What makes things worse is that he is most likely to cheat on her with someone much younger than she is meaning that she wasted all her good years on a man who loved himself.

The Charmers are the ones women should really be weary of as they are “the naughty ones of society,” says Card. They would use lines like “Can I flirt with you?” They often have the rough and rugged appeal and seem very smart upon meeting them. They will hit you with the smoothest and coolest lines but this is because they are street smart and often have a little education. They look for women who emulate the kind of man that they would like to be. They would also be inclined to go for the type of woman who resembles a motherly figure for them, says Card.

Another thing to take notice of the next time you decide to go to a bar.

s6000147.jpgPhoto Melissa Douman

Women generally go to bars with other women when they are hoping to meet a potential suitor. There is safety in numbers and therefore the average number of a group of women in a bar on a social night out would be five.
Card says that “women are strange creatures. You will find that in the group, there is a pretty girl, mediocre looking girl and a rotten looking girl.” The pretty girl knows that she is pretty, acts pretty, dresses pretty and generally has no problems meeting men. The mediocre looking girl is often jealous of the pretty one but pretends to be the nicest friend in the group. She compensates for her lack of prettiness by acting as the mediator between the pretty girl and the rotten looking girl. She is nice to the rotten one so that she shows her humanitarian side and will even find someone to hook the rotten girl up with.

Ladies outside the bar

This tendency is rife in teenage girls as they are generally insecure about themselves and where they fit in, but because women are generally insecure about their entire package, this tendency sometimes sticks with them into their adult years. This is not a conscious effort to be this way or choose friends in this manner but generally because women want to feel secure about themselves, they will adopt this tendency.

For men the group number is lower. This is not because men don’t need to feel safe, it is because men do not really like rejection and the higher their group number, the harder they take the rejection. “Men are shit scared of women and fear being rejected by them. They would sometimes therefore go for the rotten looking girl so that they have a lower chance of being rejected.” Says Card

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Photo Melissa Douman

Though more and more people migrate to bars in the hope of improving on their social life, or even meeting someone, it doesn’t mean that they fit into any category, be it their attire, choice of beverage or the company that they keep. What women and men alike should really be weary of is the fact that with the evolution of the bar came the evolution of the pick-up line- Normal people do not use pick up lines.

Body language speaks a thousand words and if you are hoping that a man or woman returns your interest, make eye-contact with them and then flash a smile. If they ignore you chances are that they are not really interested. If they smile back, it means that you could take the first step and gradually make your way over to them and initiate conversation or that they may gradually make their way over to you and say “Hello”.

Is there hope for the voiceless?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2007 by melissadouman
breast-cancer-ribbon.jpgPhoto courtesy of Gety Images

Melissa Douman

It is Friday morning and there is a musty, soup smell in the icy air. Crowds of men, women and children huddle towards soup pots and loaves of stale bread. Standing there, in the middle of the crowd, is a skinny girl around the age of nine. Shrouded in a fleecy blanket, stained, red, polka dotted dress and blue plastic boots; she carries a yellow bucket toward the pots. There is a glaze over her ebony eyes. Her tiny figure is frail. Something about her seems uneasy. Her breathing is slow and steady and her gaze seems distant.

Her name is Mbali, which translated from Zulu, means flower. She is eleven years old and she is a child orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

There are over 15 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. 12.3 Million of these children are from sub-Saharan Africa. This means that 82% of the global figure is children from sub-Saharan Africa.

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Photo: courtesy of Judy Lelliot

The yellow bucket that Mbali carries is to be filled with soup that she will take back to her sick father and HIV-positive, two-year-old brother Lehlohonolo. Her father is too ill to get out of bed and Mbali’s mother is already dead because of AIDS.

Mbali and her brother are not the only children living this tragic circumstance. HIV/AIDS is growing at an exponential rate. In 1990, fewer than 1 million sub-Saharan children under the age of 15 had lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. At the end of 2001, 11 million children were orphans because of HIV/AIDS. By 2010, 20 million in this age group are likely to be orphans from this single cause if nothing is implemented to bring about change.

Thuli is a six year old girl who stays in a suburb in Northern Johannesburg. She seems happy and healthy. She lost her mother to HIV/AIDS when she was just 8 months old. Thuli miraculously does not have the virus. Her 53 year old aunt, who has a 13 year old daughter of her own, has taken Thuli in and is now caring and providing for her.

Extended families are becoming over burdened by this growing number of orphans and as a result, find it difficult to support them. Thuli’s aunt, who works as a domestic worker and has stayed in the same suburb, with the same family, since 1982, says that her employees have paid school fees for all three of her children and they all received private education from their respective schools. They are now supporting Thuli and her 13 year old daughter.

She says that she is not sure that she will be able to work for another twelve years so that Thuli gets to complete matric. “I am old. I have been working for too long. I need to rest. My back is sore, my knees…eish…it’s bad,” she says cupping her head in her hands.

Thuli is still lucky. She goes to a private pre-school in the area. Her cousin is attending a private high school. Mbali has very little chance at even a basic education. She walks 11km a day to get clean water, collects food from the soup kitchen (provided by a church group in the neighbouring community), takes her brother to the clinic and runs the household. She has got no support. When her mother got sick, her aunts and uncles, grandmother and cousins disowned the whole family. Mbali, who speaks only Zulu says that the family disowned them because they are afraid. They say that AIDS is a sickness that the “devil sends”. When people started finding out about her sick mother, her friends told her that they could no longer play with her.

s822190552_1264419_1629.jpg Photo Courtesy of Judy Lelliot

The HIV/AIDS pandemic seems thus, to be deepening poverty and forcing kids like Mbali to survive by doing the worst forms of child labour. To prevent living on the streets, some of these children end up working as domestic workers, street vendors and worst of all child prostitutes.
Thato* 24, an AIDS orphan and who once was a child prostitute says, “Sometimes I sleep with four…maybe five mens a day.” She did not have a chance at an education because she and her brothers were taken in by extended family who gave education preference first to the boys. They could not afford to educate all of them and their own children. Thato says that she needed to survive when she left their home. She needed to eat and she needed to live. She works as a domestic worker now and will go out with men who buy things for her. She will have sex with them, if they support her.

The state of health care in relation to HIV/AIDS positive children seems also, to be problematic and does not seem to be alleviating the crisis much. Government hospitals such as Baragwaneth Hospital near Soweto, is understaffed and do not have enough Antiretroviral Drugs to support the growing pandemic of HIV/AIDS sufferers. The weakened condition of Health care facilities is said to be growing ever weaker because they are overwhelmed by the HIV/AIDS onslaught in Southern Africa. Though it seems to be in the child’s best interest to keep parents alive and healthy for as long as possible so as to better their chances at a financially stable future, there are just not enough ARV’s for these people.


Photo: courtesy of Judy Lelliot

Mbali’s two year old brother Lehlohonolo is worse off. His chance of survival is low. He does not fall into the division of sufferers who get first choice in terms of access to the drug. “At best 3000 children are on ARV’s countrywide, whereas between 30 000 and 45 000 of the country’s 230 000 HIV positive children needed the drugs,” said Dr. Haroon Saloojee of Wits University’s Community Pediatrics Division.

In the media, there is editor and reader fatigue around the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Editors do not want to publish articles related to the disease because sales drop when these articles are put on the front page. People seem tired about hearing about the pandemic and yet statistics reveal that the majority of the South African nation should know or have heard of at least one person infected with HIV/AIDS.

Though not everyone is infected with the virus, everyone is affected by it in some way and the effects of this disease are escalating. The only way to prevent this escalation is by becoming aware of the virus and dealing with it. Throwing money at poor people, building more orphanages or providing soup kitchens, do not eradicate the problem it disguises it and the crisis still continues to escalate. What people need to be is educated. The importance of it is paramount to their chance at a better future.

n822190552_1264416_809.jpg Photo courtesy of Judy Lelliot

A woman with a cause and a heart of gold

Posted in personal, Uncategorized on November 8, 2007 by melissadouman
wendyorr.gifPhoto Courtesy of Flicker

Profile Dr Wendy Orr

Melissa Douman

Wendy Orr, the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and Social Worker has lead and continues to lead an extraordinary life. A life that has influenced change in the apartheid struggle, fights for human rights and still manages being a single-mother, sister and the glue that holds families together.

Dr Wendy Orr was just 22 when she qualified as a medical doctor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in 1983. Her older sister Dr Margaret Orr says that Wendy was always the smart one in the family. She was put in a special classing when she just started school and matriculated with 7 distinctions. “From the age of ten I knew that I wanted to become a doctor,” says Wendy.

She started her career at the examiners office in Port Elizabeth where she witnessed and treated beaten-up political detainees. She witnessed up to 80 patients every two hours being brought in after being beaten by the police.
Being brought up in a home where treating people from all colours and creeds equally were instilled meant that she knew that these practices were not right. Though the church her father ministered at had a white only congregation he had colleagues that were not white. Sometimes his non-white colleagues would come home for supper and sometimes they would sleep over. “I did not have a sense of being superior to Black people as I had friends that were Black and respected my father’s colleagues who were Black,” she says, “But I was always aware that I was in a privileged position and though I didn’t feel that apartheid was right, I still benefited from it.”
When she worked at the examiners office and became aware of the police’s cruel practices, she knew that it was not right and therefore felt compelled to do something to change it.
She became the first and the only doctor to reveal police torture and abuse of detainees. She did this at the age of 24. She didn’t do it alone however; with the help of legal support, she gained an avenue through the courts. She then successfully approached the Supreme Court of South Africa to grant an interdiction against the police to prevent assault of detainees.
Wendy says that the other doctors were trained to do jobs that they didn’t want to lose so at lunch times did not speak of the torture that they had just witnessed. When she spoke out it against the police, her life was made extremely difficult by her colleagues who distanced themselves from her and didn’t even sit with her at lunch.
Margaret says that they were trying times and that Wendy had to live through death threats and angry people. “She was young and she did something that was right but it was something that came with a consequence,” says Margaret.

Wendy calls herself an “accidental activist,” because the 1984 activism prompted her to become actively involved in human rights activism and pursue a career doing work that supported her beliefs that “we are not alone, our personal values influence making ethical decisions and we must acknowledge our humanity at all times.”

She did volunteer work for Rape Crisis and People Opposing Women’s Abuse (POWA) and was a member of the Human Rights Committee’s Working group on the provision of health care in prisons.

In the early 1990s she became involved in activism around HIV/AIDS and spearheaded the university of Cape Towns HIV/AIDS policy development and implementation process. She trained as an AIDS counselor in New York and in London and played an active role in AIDS education and training on the campus of UCT.

President Nelson Mandela appointed her as a Commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) in 1995 where she served until its closure in 1998.
She heard stories and saw people guilty of the most offensive crimes walk free. Margaret Orr says that Wendy is one of the strongest people that she knows. When Margaret asked her sister how she manages to continue the struggle of activism when she has already witnessed so much, Wendy said that it is something that she doesn’t take personally, because if she did allow herself to get more emotionally involved than she already was, she wouldn’t have the strength to continue the fight.

Wendy says that working on the TRC was an incredible privilege but it was really difficult to experience. “If you ask me whether I would do it again, I would probably still have worked with the detainees but I don’t think that I would do the TRC again. It was three years and one of the most emotionally draining experiences.”

After the closure of the TRC, she was appointed as Director of Transformation and Employment Equity at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Despite this, she continued her involvement in the health sector.

In 2005, over 10 years of activism and being exposed to the harshness and scarring that are the legacies of apartheid she decided that she needed a career change and has dubbed this change her “mid life career change,” when she decided to join Resolve, working in the human rights sector as a consultant to the private and higher education sectors on transformation and black economic empowerment strategies.

“I left practicing as a doctor when I started working at the TRC because I didn’t have the time to practice and work on the commission. I don’t think that I will ever practice as a doctor again. It’s not very intellectually stimulating. I suppose it was helpful in training my brain in analyzing situations,” she says.

It has been established that Wendy comes from a family with strong ethical and moral values, a family that despite a political trend or societal belief still strives to do what is right. Our father used to say that “For evil to triumph it is necessary for good people only to do nothing”, says Margaret.
Wendy explains that a lot of pressure was put on herself and her siblings when they were growing up. They were the Ministers children and as such were expected from the members of the congregation not only to live good lives but to live lives that would serve as examples to others.
Margaret says that they all rebelled at some point. She says that all siblings apart from Wendy smoke “ostentatiously,” and they get lectured about their bad habits from Wendy.

stop_smoking1.jpg Photo Courtesy of Gety Images

Wendy has two older sisters and a younger brother who have all done work that benefits society, which is another belief her father used to instill in them by saying “You have to do work that has meaning and you must utilize your talents.”
Indeed they all did pursue careers that influenced change. Wendy’s oldest sister Dr Margaret Orr has a PhD in English and is the Director of the Centre for Learning and Training Development at Wits University. Her second oldest sister Cathy joined in marches against the apartheid struggle in varsity and is now settled in the country where she runs a coffee shop. Her younger brother, “the masterpiece of the family,” because her parents really wanted a boy is an advocate.

“We fought a lot growing up and we still fight, says Margaret who also says that the three sisters shared a bedroom for 15 years. She says that the longest they have ever gone not talking was a few weeks. “When one of us can’t take the silence anymore an email is sent explaining why they were mad and how we can work to resolve the misunderstanding,” she explains adding that this was a custom that their father practiced.

Wendy has an eight-year old son named Robert and says that “he is the best thing that I have ever done.” He wants to be a pearl diver when he grows up. His father is coloured and Robert asked his mom one day “mommy what colour am I?” Wendy tried to answer diplomatically and said “Well you have an olive complexion and when you go out into the sun you become a sort of toffee colour.” Robert replied saying “Ag no mom, I think that I am light-black.”

Margaret says that Wendy is extraordinary and doesn’t know where she finds the time to do everything that she does. “Wendy is a single mother and her son can be a handful but he is also a mad little genius,” she says. And explains that Wendy has a toolbox and on the weekend you may find her doing all sorts of handiwork around her house.

Margaret says that Wendy is the healer and the organizer of the family. They are a very close knit family and find any excuse to celebrate a holiday just to create a reason for get-togethers. Most of the get-togethers are held at Wendy’s house. Wendy cooks and sets up and is very organized “she planned and executed her sister Cathie’s wedding including making all the food. Wendy can’t recall doing anything crazy. She says that she travels a lot but that she is very systematic and organized and likes to be in control of her life so she can’t think of doing anything crazy. Her sister shares her sentiments and says that “Wendy doesn’t really do crazy, if it were crazy it would be planned. She did go whit water rafting once, and she does travel a lot. She would normally call me up and say that she has planned a trip would I like to go?”

Wendy though she doesn’t practice anymore still looks at all the “odd bits” of her family explains Margaret. Margaret recalls an incident that occurred a few years ago where her new boyfriend at the time accidentally cut his head open. “We called Wendy immediately, she met my boyfriend for the first time while she stitched his head up,” she says laughing.

There are two boys and three girl cousins in the family (all children from the brothers and sisters) and the boys are somewhat outnumbered. “We are a family of strong women says Margaret who also says that when the family gets together it is not a role assumed only by the girls to set the table, wash the dishes or serve the food, they take turns- boys included. They make a point of discouraging boys are better than girls and vice versa talk and encourage the kids to grow up knowing that boys and girls are equal and should be treated with the same respect. “A lot of men in our generation have not made that jump.”

When asked whether she would ever leave South Africa or encourage her son to leave South Africa she replied saying that “I know that I benefited as a white person in South Africa. I feel that I owe it to the country to stay.” She said that the country has a lot of potential as it progresses with transformation and that it has the potential to be incredible “if we could get things right.”
“I do worry about his safety, because of the crime and the violence but this is a beautiful country,” she adds.

Margaret says that Wendy loves to say “Responsibility is a force for good,” and takes on responsibilities that she doesn’t always have to, like the commitment she made to her child minder and Domestic worker Doreen’s 15 year old daughter. Wendy has undertaken the expense of Dikeledi’s education and sent her to complete school at Sacred Heart College. She also pays for Dikeledi’s uniform, school camps and text books.

Dr Wendy Orr has lived an extraordinary life an has been acknowledged with several awards. She received the MK Seedat Health and Human Rights Award and in December 1998 received the United Nations Association Human Rights Community British Medical Association on a report on the role of doctors in preventing human rights abuses, between 1996 and 2000. She won the League Human Rights Award in 1990 and in 1991 was shortlisted for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Human Rights Medicine Fellowship.
A quote taken from her book entitled From Biko to Basson where she documents her experiences at the examiners office in Cape Town is more like a way of life where she says “Honour your own humanity by recognizing and honouring the humanity of others, regardless of colour, creed, gender, nationality. Honour humanity by valuing the richness that difference creates, by seeking to understand rather than to condemn and by being true to yourself.”

Abortions are neither safe nor pain free

Posted in personal, Uncategorized on November 8, 2007 by melissadouman


Abortions are neither safe nor pain Free

Melissa Douman

With sweaty palms clinched in a tight supportive hold, they sat in the Marie Stopes Clinic in Sandton. Twenty-two year old Zoë O’Neill felt nervous, anxious and torn apart. Though her boyfriend’s gaze was gentle, she struggled to maintain eye contact with him. She felt unsure if they would ever get over the guilt, the consequences, and the emptiness of what was to come.

image1.gif Courtesy of Flicker

The wait was long. All 14 seats in the waiting room were taken up by women. Some chatting casually with their partner or friend, others just sitting quietly with their eyes closed or staring straight ahead. Though the room was full of women awaiting the same fate, no one looked at each other or united in a sympathetic gaze. It was as though everyone was cocooned in their own bubble with reasons for being there, reasons that nobody else could possibly understand.

Zoë, with her own feelings of apprehensiveness and despair thought that she was lucky, at least she was not making this decision on her own, the man who got her pregnant was with her holding her hand whispering “Don’t cry baby, it’s going to be okay.”

She felt angry for being there. She felt angered by the choice that she was making and all she wanted to do was run out of the clinic and tell her boyfriend that the doctor was right, “we are not the first young couple in this position, we can still have a career, contact with our family and say that our children are the best thing that has ever happened to us.” But she couldn’t, she couldn’t fight their choice and see her baby born.

She remembered thinking abut her hopes and dreams. About the day she would receive the news of being pregnant. It was going to be one of the happiest days of her life, because by that time she would have had a stable job, got married and been ready to take on the responsibilities of being a mother.
It was as though the words “Stop, No, I don’t want this….” were being stifled in her throat for she knew that this was the best solution despite the fact that it wasn’t right.
If she keeps the baby, how is she going to tell her conservative parents who still believed that she was pure and innocent? Would they believe her when she tells them that she was not irresponsible but that the contraceptive pill that she had been on for the past year had failed her? She remembered the employer who paid for her studies, secured her a job and put a roof over her head saying in passing that “she must make certain that she doesn’t fall pregnant before she starts her new job.” She didn’t ask him what would happen if she did. “What would happen if I did?” she thought. She was on the verge of starting her career, starting her life and being able to move away from the struggle of not being able to do, to afford to achieve. She had it all and now this…

2047668317_f46df0ffcf.jpg Courtesy of Flicker

Statistics collected by the National Department of health reveal that on average 50 000 legal abortions are performed each year. Abortions became legal in South Africa in 1996 but this does not mean that they were not performed prior to 1996 when the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act (CTOP) was passed. The passing of the CTOP sparked heated debate – and that debate has not lessened. In other countries in Africa where abortions are not legal 4, 2-million unsafe abortions are performed each year and from these approximately 30 000 women die.

“And then there’s the age of the young women who are getting the abortions. I don’t dispute that some of them use termination as birth control. This is irresponsible. But I do believe there are many more who see no other way out; who feel they’ve made the right to decision,” said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang in an interview on the controversy around abortions

1746137030_463ef0fb8e_m.jpg Courtesy of Flicker

“Zoë, Zoë O’Neill” the nurse called, “Zoë you can come inside now.” Her heart started racing as she walked into the office, her hand clutching the purse that contained the R2 500-00 that she and her boyfriend struggled to come up with. The receptionist handed her the box of tissues and asked her what procedure she had decided to go with.
“The results of the sonar revealed that you are 4 weeks and 5 days pregnant. You came in last week Thursday, which means that you are now 5 weeks and 3 days pregnant. You can still have the medical abortion. If you take the pill today, you must go home and get some rest. Tomorrow morning you must come in for the next round of tablets, after which you should get home as soon as possible because then you will experience a miscarriage. You will not be able to do work for at least two days,” said the receptionist looking down at her blue file.
The receptionist did a quick calculation and then told her that the sonar was R240 which she had already paid and that the amount for the medical abortion would be R1888-50.
Zoë gave the money to her boyfriend who reluctantly paid with one hand and held her with the other. He led her outside and looked at her saying that he will not leave her side. That she is not alone and that they would get through this together. “Baby, do we have to do this?” she asked. He replied “We don’t have a choice, but you are strong and together we will be strong. I won’t leave your side.”

The Nurse called Zoë again, this time there was no turning back, the decision to go through with the abortion was made when she paid. The tears were streaming down her face as she sat in the chair opposite the nurse who administered the drug to her. “This is an oral tablet that you have to drink. It will start causing you to have mild contractions and may even dislodge the foetus. But this is a very rare occurrence. You have to come back tomorrow the same time as today so that we can insert 2 tablets into your cervix and then you will go home and get into bed. The bleeding will start and then it will be like you are having a miscarriage,” explained the nurse.

Zoë looked down at the glass with only a sip of water. The hand clutching the tablet was shaking and she felt as though her heart was going to explode. She looked at her boyfriend and began shaking her head, “I can’t, I can’t,” she said crying.

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Marie Stopes is one of a string of clinics where abortions can be practised legally. It has hosts of clinics situated around South Africa. They offer abortions and say that their abortions are safe and pain free. They do not perform free abortions as they are a private clinic, but government hospitals that do offer abortions do so free of charge. The problem with government hospitals like Johannesburg General Hospital is that they have a three month waiting list for abortions. The legal limit for termination is three months or 12 weeks. As a result many girls and women unable to have abortions done at these clinics and cannot afford private clinics like Marie Stopes are so desperate for the abortions that they have backstreet abortions because they are cheaper than private clinics. Backstreet abortions are not legal because they are often performed in an unhygienic setting or are performed by people who are not trained to perform them.

“The goal of Marie Stopes South Africa is the prevention of unwanted births, and our mission is to afford women the right to have children by choice not by chance,” reads the Marie Stopes advertisement. However, there seems to be a problem with their advertising as Zoë discovers. They promise to provide safe and pain free abortions.

ma-st.jpg Courtesy Of Flicker

Two weeks later Zoë arrived back at the clinic. She was there to make sure that the foetus was gone. Her heart was sadder than it had ever been before. She remembers the pain that she felt when she lay in bed, severe cramping and no pain killer to take the pain away. But she didn’t complain, she bit her lip and bared it all for she knew that her actions made her deserve more pain than what she was experiencing. Her choice to kill her unborn baby deserved more than the continuous abdominal cramping that sometimes was so severe she couldn’t even walk, the heavy non-stop bleeding, the nauseous feeling that she had experienced for the past two weeks. She wanted to die.

She wanted to go back to that fateful day, where she would not have taken the pill or have had to go back the next day for the two they inserted inside of her. She wanted so badly to still be pregnant. She wanted so desperately to see the birth of her baby. The baby she, in a short period of time loved because it was hers and it was theirs and before everything had happened they seemed so in love.
Zoë found herself in the waiting room, waiting to be called into the reception office only to get sent back to the waiting room to wait for a nurse to call her.
When the nurse called, she led her into the examination room, told her to remove her pants and lie on the table. She slapped cold gel on her stomach and proceeded with the sonar. Zoë thought of the first time she had had a sonar done and remembered seeing a tiny bean-like blimp on the screen. It was not a baby yet but somehow she wished that it was still there.

The nurse looked up at her and said “You are still showing signs of pregnancy.”
She turned to her boyfriend who was holding her hand, “What do you mean I am still pregnant.” The nurse showed her the monitor and said “Look there, it is still there.”
The nurse explained that the procedure was unsuccessful. She was going to have to do the procedure again.
“What do you mean do it again? You mean that you are going to shove more tablets with that steel thing inside me again? You mean that I am going to go through more cramping and more bleeding and what then? No I want to keep it. I shouldn’t have done it. What happens if I keep the baby?”
“You will die,” said the nurse. “You can’t keep it because you are bleeding and the bleeding won’t stop. It is not really a baby anymore. It is just tissue that is still there.”

Zoë fought with the nurse to get a doctor to remove it. She couldn’t bare having the something stuck up inside of her and more tablets and more pain. She couldn’t afford staying out of school for more time than she had already taken and she couldn’t tell her parents for the third weekend in a row that she was too swamped with work to go and visit them. What was she going to do?

The nurse asked her to remove her underwear. “But I am still bleeding,” she said. The nurse laid a paper towel on the examining table. Told her to spread her legs wide and relax and then inserted the cold steel contraption containing the pills. Her boyfriend stroking her head, tears in their eyes.

The nurse left the contraption and called a doctor from her cellphone, “Doctor it is Sister Yvone Tshabalala from Sandton clinic. I have a patient here. She is bleeding too much and there are big blood clots coming out. The medical procedure did not work. Must I still put the tablets in or send her to you for it to be removed?”

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Jeanine McGill, the National coordinator of Africa Christian Union said that “The pills used to induce early labour have a number of side effects. They can cause prolonged bleeding and normally cause severe cramping. Because the pills take a long time to take effect, mothers often deliver their babies at home, resulting in psychological trauma as they realise that their baby is not mere “blob of tissue”, but a recognisable small scale human being from 6 to 8 weeks after conception.”
Zoë found herself being driven to the clinic. She couldn’t believe it. This nightmare was turning into a slow and painful torture. Ghandi Square was dark and dingy. The Marie Stopes Clinic in Ghandi Square was tucked away in a corner of a building that was being reconstructed.

There was another wait to see the doctor. The same looks on faces of girls in the waiting room. They were a lot younger than the ones she had encountered at the Sandton Clinic and they were not cocooned. They stared at her. She wished that she could disappear but realised that they were all there for the same reason and they were all scared just like her.

A male doctor called her into his machine filled room with a single bed, machinery on either side. He told her to lie down on the table. He said that the procedure would take 10 minutes if she lied really still and could withstand the pain. He said that he would insert a few instruments inside her cervix and then use suction to get the foetus out of her. He also said that he would scrape out her uterus. Zoë felt the walls caving in on her and asked in a choked voice, “I couldn’t even lie still when the nurse shoved the tablets up inside me, how am I going to do this doctor?” The doctor said that if she wanted an anaesthetic, she was going to have to pay another R600 upfront.

“We don’t have anymore money Shane,” said Zoë to her boyfriend. “Its okay baby, we’ll make a plan,” he said in a comforting voice.

Another loan and they managed to collect the money in an hour, just in time to be the last of around 20 girls to have the procedure done that day. The clinic closed early on Saturdays.
She waited for an hour in what felt like a solitary confinement. Sitting there in nothing but a blue overall she felt her head start spinning as the medication began taking effect. She was then escorted to the doctors’ room once more and heard him mumbling something or other and then there was pitch black.

Two weeks later, Zoë is back at the clinic. Her abortion took four weeks before they confirmed that she was no longer pregnant.

Though she is no longer pregnant Zoë is tortured by her dreams. “I forgot the physical pain of the procedure,” she says, “the hardest part is waking up every morning and living with the guilt, pretending that this didn’t happen and not being able to share the experience with anyone. The hardest part is realising that I will never be the same and still having a passion for the job I thought that I would love to do, when I blame the profession that I chose for influencing my decision to kill my baby.”

“We must emphasise that because of the guilt and shame involved, women who suffer as a result of abortions are not only less likely to complain, but they are less likely to seek medical treatment for injuries incurred,” said McGill.

image2.gif Courtesy of Flicker

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Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2007 by melissadouman