Academic, writer and epidemiologist Rufaro Samanga is someone who can’t turn a blind eye to injustice. In her writing, she stands up for others by covering topics such as feminism, public health, social justice, scientific innovation, entrepreneurship and education and African literature.
Samanga is a features writer for OkayAfrica, a digital media platform dedicated to African culture, and a contributor to other Afrocentric platforms. She has been surprised by the reach of her work. “I count it a privilege to be able to tell the stories that are often neglected and cast aside,” she says.
Samanga wants her work to help change how women are seen and treated in South Africa and elsewhere. “Whether I’m writing about women’s experiences or highlighting their varied narratives in my academic work in the public health space, I want women to feel uplifted, treasured, valued and glorified,” she says. “I want women to be free — free to just be whatever they please.”
Samanga was an Allan Gray fellow and a Mandela-Rhodes scholar. During her studies in epidemiology and biostatistics, she investigated whether there was any association between childhood trauma and a diagnosis of severe schizophrenia in adulthood.
“My proudest moment, as an aspirant thought leader, remains obtaining my master’s degree,” she says. “In a country where black people are excluded from institutions of higher learning on the basis of financial status and historically racist structures, I have learnt that a specialised master’s degree is not just a personal win but a victory for the black community.”