Sivenati Mancana is leading a fulfilling life that exceeds her initial expectations. As a nurse, she wholeheartedly commits herself to supporting women who experience stigmatisation and humiliation due to their health-related challenges.
Although becoming a nurse was not on the radar for her, she has found herself exactly where her passion lies – being able to inform and assist others to the best of her abilities.
Throughout her life, she was in between living with her mother in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape or with her father in Cape Town. In an interview with Health for Mzansi, she explains that the lack of stability, where parents make decisions without considering how they might affect the child, had a negative impact on her life.
‘How nursing chose me’
She lived in Cape Town with her paternal family until high school. However, due to behavioural challenges arising from family feuds, she was subsequently sent back to Queenstown.
“Being friends with gangsters, I was always in trouble at home for sleeping out and misbehaving,” she admits.
“I was the least favourite child. My aunt treated me differently than other children when it came to reprimanding me for mistakenly breaking a plate or coming home late.”
According to her, the streets seemed more tolerable, and she eventually found solace in them.
Mancana was sent back to her mother in Queenstown to repeat her grade 10 due to her misbehaviour. She mentions that she was a smart kid, but the environment at home was extremely unsettling.
Social support, comfort, and stimulation
Upon arriving back in the Eastern Cape, she discovered a variety of new learning areas, one of which was agricultural studies. She performed admirably in her academic pursuits and excelled in agriculture and other related subjects.
She says people recommended she pursue it at the university, even though she had no idea what it would entail for her.
In 2010, Mancana enrolled at the University of Free State to pursue a B. Agric degree with a major in animal science. She describes those years as the most distressing period of her life.
With plans set up by her mother, she would have to take two taxis from the local town to the university. She’d need to utilise a library but didn’t have time since she would need to dash to grab a taxi to get home.
“I lived in Botshabelo, 62km away from school with my relatives. As a member of the family, I was expected to contribute to household chores on a regular basis, regardless of the day of the week. The setting was causing me stress.”
During her second year, Mancana relocated closer to the university and lived in a commune. She faced financial challenges when she was unable to pay the rent on time.
She ended up staying with friends, with no secure place to stay; it was a nightmare, she adds. “My life had a street kid’s vibe. I went home and asked my mother if I could take a gap year, and she approved.”
She became pregnant during her gap year, and her difficulties resurfaced. Under pressure, she says, “I had to think out of the box. I heard about a government-funded public college called Lilitha Nursing College in 2012. People were discussing the stipend offered by the college.”
She believed that it was something she could do, applied and was accepted during her gap year. She started her course in 2013 and was on her way to becoming a nurse.
‘I feel most at ease in the medical field’
Mancana’s work primarily focuses on women’s issues, such as cervical cancer, pregnancy termination, untreated STIs, contraceptives, and women’s infertility.
She says, “I have had many challenges in life, from family to being away from home, needing help from strangers, and being pregnant without financial support; those challenges have helped me approach life differently.”
As a nurse, she believes that it is important to actively listen and strive to understand the struggles that people face.
She explains that being at Frontier Clinic, in Queenstown has been beneficial for her mental, social, and empathetic growth. Her close involvement with women’s issues has brought about a shift in her perspective.
“Women face stigmatisation, with the choice of termination of pregnancy, or otherwise. Some people experience rejection and humiliation, but I am pleased to provide them with improved solutions to overcome their challenges.”
She explains that she sees herself solely as someone who helps women live less stressful lives.
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