I am Shehnaz Munshi and I identify as a womxn. I was born in Johannesburg, into a family of Indian Gujarati heritage. My family moved to South Africa in the 1920’s and worked as traders.
I am a researcher for the ‘Sonke CHANGE Trial’ project, based at the Wits School of Public Health. The aim of the project is to refine a multi-level gender-transformation model, called ‘One Man Can (OMC)’, which is centered on community mobilisation and advocacy. The project evaluation seeks to determine the effectiveness of this model in preventing men’s use of violence against woman and girls (VAWG).
I hold an MPH in Health Policy and Systems Research from the Centre of Health Policy. I am also an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience. My passion for health equity was fuelled by my experiences working at the height of the HIV/AIDs crisis in South Africa both in Johannesburg, and, especially in rural and ‘resource poor’ Illembe District. I felt deeply disturbed by the unshakeable systemic, structural, and chronic underdevelopment of the area, and of the health system, that contributed to the high burden of disease, disability and occupational injustice. Moreover, I was one of two OTs employed in the district. My experience working in a ‘resource rich’ NHS in London, exposed me to models of health care that was person-centered, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral, however, I was witness to the inequities in access and quality faced by migrants and refugees from the global south. I was also witness to the effects of budget cuts to the NHS.
The health activism sector I am most involved with is the People’s Health Movement (PHM), first in London and now in South Africa. My involvement has been around coalition building; engaging policy makers to ensure that the implementation of the NHI Policy brings greater equity in health access, good quality, and an acceptable range of services; supporting outsourced community health workers in Gauteng who are fighting for better labour rights and working conditions, and, taking action against the Life Esidimeni marathon project.
I am the Chairperson of JuPHASA (Junior Public Health Association of South Africa) and co-founder of the PHASA Mental Health SIG. My activism extends to the academic space where I am interrogating the discourse on ‘decolonisation of knowledge’, with my contribution to the conversation located in the health sciences, and my fields of occupational therapy, public health, political economy of health, gender, mental health, health systems and policy and primary health care. I plan to publish my MPH research and pursue a PHD in the future drawing on my experience in these diverse areas. I plan to be a writer, to dabble in poetry, and to create art for social justice.