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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng dedicates Global Excellence Award to human rights defenders

In 2020 Mofokeng was appointed by the United Nations as a Special Rapporteur

Medical doctor and activist Tlaleng Mofokeng has dedicated her Global Excellence award at the recent Health Excellence Awards to human rights defenders and fellow healthcare workers.

“It means a lot to be recognised for the work and impact of the work that one does. For me, it has always been about meaningful work and making a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Mofokeng tells The Citizen.

The word ‘activist’ is apt when you look at the work she does, which goes beyond the medical room and the scrubs she dons.

Mofokeng has experience in advocacy training for healthcare professionals and her areas of focus are gender equality, policy, maternal and neonatal health, universal health access, post violence care, menstrual health, and HIV management.


“Awards are a way of taking a moment, that seldom take to internalise the achievements one is making. It is also important to be honest that the thematic areas of work I have expertise in and advocate such as sex workers’ rights, abortion rights, LGBTIQA+ rights and confronting head on racism in global health architecture attract a lot of criticism and yet I continue to insist.”

The Health Excellence Awards are organised by Clinix Health Group, which is the largest private hospital operator in the black townships. The group was found by Dr Khamane “KOP” Matseke, who is also Clinix Health Group’s CEO.

“To be recognised in these awards, by my own colleagues does feel more special.  I have been recognised both in South Africa and globally but this does feel even more so special because my colleagues here at home know what it takes to do this work, often, in spite of the conditions that hold us back and often feel like the system is working against our personal and professional well-being,” Mofokeng said.

The third instalment of the awards took place over the weekend at Emperors Palace, recognising healthcare workers. At the ceremony, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was bestowed the Dr Nthato Motlana Lifetime Achiever Award.

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Human rights

Mofokeng said it’s imperative to her that she emphasise the importance of human rights to her colleagues about the work they do.

“… they must view the practice of medicine as a human rights tool and they must advocate humanity and dignity of patients in the health system and other social systems as they have a direct impact on health outcomes.”

In 2020 Mofokeng was appointed by the United Nations (UN) as a Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

She is a member of the boards of Safe Abortion Action Fund, Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing, Accountability International. She is also the Chair of the Soul City Institute board.

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Missing home

Being recruited by the UN has meant that Mofokeng spends time working outside of South Africa but she tries to maintain a sense of normalcy despite being thousands of kilometres from home at times.

“I miss my family all the time, but we have our own rituals of staying connected when I am abroad, I still do homework with the kids for example,” averred the doctor who hails from the Free State. She also said she missed speaking in her native Sesotho language.

“Every time I land, it feels like the first time I am arriving back home and that is the best feeling on earth, to touch down on the very land that grounds and fuels me. It will never not be emotional coming back home, as a child from Qwa-qwa doing all of the things in the world.”

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