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30 November 2020 | Story Nonsidiso Qwabe | Photo Supplied

Acclaimed South African writer, author, and UFS research fellow Zubeida Jaffer was honoured with a lifetime achievement award for her career in journalism during the Standard Bank Sivukile Awards ceremony. 

Passion for journalism spans decades
During the award ceremony on 15 October 2020, Jaffer received the prestigious Allan Kirkland Soga Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises a sustained and extraordinary contribution to journalism. Jaffer said she never chose journalism, but journalism chose her. She said when she first stepped into a newsroom looking for a holiday job in the 1970s, she did not know she had stepped into her future in news reporting. Since then, Jaffer has earned many accolades in the journalism industry as well as in academia. She also became an acclaimed author, and wrote her third book, Beauty of the Heart: The Life and Times of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, during her time as a writer-in-residence at the UFS. While at the UFS, she founded the online media platform, The Journalist, a platform that provides history and context for key issues facing South African journalists. This portal also links students with academics across the country and will soon be extended to the African continent and the diaspora.

Jaffer said she felt blessed to be recognised among the many journalism pioneers in South Africa. 

“It’s extremely wonderful because it came so out of the blue. This year, with COVID-19, I was digging deep, and trying my best to keep focus. I’m very thankful. It’s made me pause, reflect, and realise that a lot of things I’ve done have been of value. When living your life, it’s not that you’re aware of that all the time. There are many people doing great things who don’t always get this kind of recognition,” Jaffer said.

Still a great need for journalists in South Africa 

Talking about journalism today, Jaffer said: “I am often overwhelmed to witness the enthusiasm and determination of young journalists across the country who come from humble backgrounds and inspire those around them. Our country is gripped in a bipolar condition. It is not clear how the healing will come, but it will. The challenge is to keep our minds in balance so that we can be strong enough to root out corruption and gender-based violence, while at the same time fully understanding our blessings as a people.”

UFS alumna Rising Star in Journalism 

In another accolade for the UFS, the Upcoming/Rising Star of the Year award went to former UFS Journalism student Brümilda Swartbooi for her article titled ‘Sy het hard vir ons gewerk’. The article highlighted the senseless killing of a woman outside her workplace, minutes after her husband dropped her off.

Brümilda Swartbooi. Photo: Supplied

News Archive

The silent struggles of those with invisible disabilities
2016-12-13

Description: Dr Magteld Smith, invisible disabilities Tags: Dr Magteld Smith, invisible disabilities 

Dr Magteld Smith, researcher and deaf awareness
activist, from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology
at the UFS.

December is International Disability Awareness Month. Despite equality before the law and some improvements in societal attitudes, people with disabilities are still disadvantaged in many aspects of their lives. They are more likely to be the victims of crime, sexual abuse, are more likely to earn a low income or be unemployed, and less likely to gain qualifications than people without disabilities.

Demystifying disabilities is crucial

Dr Magteld Smith, a researcher at the University of the Free State (UFS) School of Medicine’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology, says that often people think the term “disability” only refers to people using a wheelchair, etc. However, this is a misperception because some individuals have visible disabilities, which can be seen, and some have invisible disabilities, which can’t be seen. Others have both visible and invisible disabilities. There is an ongoing debate as to which group has the greatest life struggles. Those with visible disabilities frequently have to explain what they can do, while individuals with invisible disabilities have to make clear what they cannot do.

Invisible disability is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of invisible disabilities and the focus is not to maintain a list of specific conditions and diagnoses that are considered invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities include debilitating fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunctions, mental disorders, hearing and eyesight disabilities and conditions that are primarily neurological in nature.

Judging books by their covers
According to Dr Smith, research indicates that people living with invisible disabilities often suffer more strained relationships than those with visible disabilities due to a serious lack of knowledge, doubts and suspicion around their disability status.

Society might also make serious allegations that people with invisible disabilities are “faking it” or believe they are “lazy”, and sometimes think they are using their invisible disability as an “excuse” to receive “special treatment”, while the person has special needs to function.

Giving recognition and praise
“One of the most heartbreaking attitudes towards persons with invisible disabilities is that they very seldom enjoy acknowledgement for their efforts and accomplishments. The media also seldom report on the achievements of persons with invisible disabilities,” says Dr Smith.

Society has to understand that a person with a disability or disabilities is diagnosed by a medical professional involving various medical procedures and tests. It is not for a society to make any diagnosis of another person.

Dr Smith says the best place to start addressing misperceptions is for society to broaden its understanding of the vast, varying world of disabilities and be more sensitive about people with invisible disabilities. They should be acknowledged and given the same recognition as people with visible disabilities.

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