At a young age, South African medical doctor & author, Dr. Kopano Matlwa Mabaso has contributed immensely to change Africa. She is one of the many brave African women who keep challenging themselves to be better, dare to think differently and be different. People like Dr. Kopano do more than just being women, they stand up to make a difference. Currently, she is Executive Director of Grow Great – “a campaign aimed at mobilizing South Africa towards achieving a stunting free generation by 2030.” She also founded Transitions Foundation, “an organization that seeks to help South Africa’s younger generation transition from hopelessness to personal fulfillment through education.”
In 2004, when conditions were frightening because HIV was devastating communities in South Africa, including where she was born, Kopano Matlwa began her study in medical education. Many people were denied life-saving anti-retroviral medicines by Thabo Mbeki’s administration. Kopano witnessed the tragedies and trauma and still in medical school, she started writing her debut publication, Coconut. “It was such a tough time. Writing was debriefing for myself, trying to make sense of all the crazy things I would see,” she recalls. Coconut became a bestseller and was internationally recognized.
Though she loved to write literature, Kopano didn’t abandon her medical ambitions. As a medical student, she also co-founded WREMS (Waiting Room Education by Medical Students), a health promotion organization educating patients and their families on common health conditions in the waiting rooms of mobile clinics. After she got her medical degree at the University of Cape Town and earned her master’s and a doctorate in public health at Oxford University, she developed a project to bring mobile ultrasound clinics to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Also, she has written three internationally acclaimed novels, Coconut, Spilt Milk and Period Pain which are social commentaries on post-apartheid South Africa. Kopano’s accomplishments include co-founding Ona Mtoto Wako – “an initiative that sought to take lifesaving antenatal health care to pregnant women living in remote and rural parts of developing country settings, with the aim to reduce the unacceptably high burden of preventable maternal deaths in these regions.” She also featured on Bill Gates’s Heroes in the field project. Now married, and a mother of two, Dr. Matlwa Mabaso lives in Jo’brug and spearheads the Grow Great campaign, which seeks to eliminate child stunting from South Africa over the next decade.