Black women leaders in health are underrecognized, from past leaders who started it all to those in the present day that are revolutionizing healthcare. Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, is a prime example of this!
Dr. Mofokeng obtained her medical degree (MBChB) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa and now runs a women’s health clinic, DISA, in Johannesburg. In addition to her work with the U.N., she is on the board of directors for the Safe Abortion Action Fund, the Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing, and Accountability International, and is the Chair of the Soul City Institute for Social Justice board. Dr. Mofokeng's expertise lies in advocating for universal health access, HIV care, youth-friendly services and family planning.
She says that the field of sexual and reproductive health chose her during her community service year working in the West Rand clinics in Johannesburg. While working there, she realized the importance of making her patients, the majority of whom were young women, feel comfortable sharing their sexual health and relationship concerns. This led Dr. Mofokeng to pursue a career in advocating for and defending sexual and reproductive rights and the health of women and children.
You also may be wondering what a Special Rapporteur does;
"Appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health monitors the right to health around the world. The post-holder studies national practices and experiences related to the right to health, identifies trends and challenges in the process and makes recommendations on how to ensure the protection of the right to health. The Special Rapporteur also receives individual complaints of alleged violations of the right to health." (UNAIDS, 2020)
Prior to her appointment, Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng had been the Commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa and advisor to the Technical Committee for the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Framework Strategy. In those roles, she successfully mobilized across movements that worked with children and adolescents, persons with disabilities, migrants, and persons living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Mofokeng has briefed the United States Senate congressional staff on the impact of the Global Gag Rule globally and in the region. She has also worked as a first responder on matters of gender-based violence and been an expert witness in court, leaning on the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to defend the rights of the abused to ensure access to post-violence care (UN Human Rights, 2020).
And if this wasn’t enough, she's currently working on an app called Sentebale to bring Sexual Reproductive Health to individuals in South Africa. Resources: Sentebaleapp, 2021 Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, 2019 UN UNAIDS, 2022 United Nations Human Rights, 2021