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Thursday, 05 August 2021

Passion to make a difference


The head of CPUT’s HIV/Aids Unit, Melanie Marais, believes in doing things wholeheartedly and her passion for her work is palpable.

Marais joined CPUT in January 2014 and her personal motto is: “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people”.

As a child, she was inspired by women such as the late Princess Diana for her humbleness and desire to break down the stigma around HIV and for highlighting the plight of the most vulnerable in Africa.

“Oprah Winfrey, another phenomenal woman, showed me we as women, we have a place in society. We matter and can have our voices heard, no matter what. Her heart to build young women in our country is heart-warming. Our late mom, Winnie Mandela, what I loved about her was her boldness, courage and fearlessly standing for what she believed in. And then most of all, my mom - what a strong, fearless and bold woman. She went through much and as a single mom of four, brought us where we are today by the grace of God. All these women, in a nutshell, inspired me to be who I am today.” 

Her highlights at the institution include “being able to move with time, being relevant and responsive to key issues in our country, such as gender-based violence (GBV) and the most recent Covid-19 pandemic, are very important”.

Other highlights are implementing key programmes such as Young Women Empowerment, increasing the focus on GBV through the launch of the Position Statement on Institutional Response to Gender-based violence and the Men’s Pledge in 2018, the mass campaign in 2019 where more than 400 trees across CPUT campuses were wrapped with purple ribbons, the Silent Protest against GBV to further increase awareness on the plight of women in our country.

“Amajita’s Men’s programme is another very important programme, which I am very proud of because we believe men are the most important role players in driving down GBV in our country. Seeing students grow, is another very important highlight for our office.”

Marais obtained her Nursing degrees – B.Cur and M.Cur at the University of the Western Cape and is currently enrolled for a Doctorate in Business Administration at Bath University in the UK.

As a nurse, it was important to her to get involved in the fight against COVID-19 and she is one of the staff members who administer vaccines at the University’s vaccination centre.  

“I am first and foremost, a nurse by profession. Fighting illnesses and disease prevention is part of my DNA as a healthcare worker. We are skilled in fighting diseases especially those that threaten the existence of mankind. Being part of a historical event and saving lives made this an important intervention which I am very happy to be part of.”

Her message to young women is: “Believe in yourself, be an influencer, be courageous, be fearless, be you. Grow yourself, use every possible development opportunity and don’t hold back. Your value is not determined by how many likes you receive on social media, or by how many friends you have, it is determined by you and your untapped potential”.

Marais admits that balancing work and her private life is sometimes a challenge and she has to force herself to step back and relax.

“I’ve learnt to spoil myself, more and more. I enjoy watching reality shows, Food Network and a good conspiracy movie. I occasionally write songs and love singing.”

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za