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TANZANIA: CATHERYN T. MASSAMU

  • Please briefly share your background with us:

I was Born in Tanzania and from the Chagga tribe. I spent most of my life in South Africa completing my primary and secondary education. Part of this education has been via homeschooling in both Mozambique and Tanzania, for a short time. I started my musical journey at the age of 10 as I picked up my first guitar.

  • What inspires and motivates you?

People inspire and motivate me. All types of people. Those that are struggling motivate me to be better in order to help others overcome their struggles. Those that are successful inspire and motivate me to be successful. I am like a sponge, I absorbing information from my surroundings. I also learn from others, the good and the bad and work to incorporate other people’s experience in my decision-making.

  • What are some struggles you faced in your life that came about because of your gender?:

It’s still unfortunately very prevalent among us the mentality that “women and science don’t and shouldn’t mix”. Fortunately that mentality is being broken by support from the government and the likes by encouraging female pupils in taking up science as a major. Being a medical student, my class has a much larger number of men than women, also visible in the pharmaceutical department. In the nursing department, it is the other way round.

The struggles I’ve faced though are more tolerable in comparison to what other women are facing in their struggles. Some of the struggles I go through would be the common “put downs” and discouragement young female scientist may face as I take part in this gender biased course. Common things I hear are, “…the choice of course doesn’t suit you.”, “…it’s too hard for you to handle.” and “…you’re too pretty to be a doctor.”.

  • How have you overcome these struggles and/or insecurities?

I have learned to filter what I hear. I don’t mean only hearing what I want to hear, but hearing what I need to hear from those whom I value and respect. People will always have something to say, always! It’s an inevitable factor in every society. I simply block the unnecessary talk and accept the necessary whilst evaluating my life as a reference.
 

  • Do you believe it is important to share your story with other women?

Yes, I most definitely do think it’s important for every woman to share their life stories with other women. This enables us women to learn from each other, both in the mistakes and the success. Also encourages others to work hard and not to give up and give direction on how to approach different gender challenges another may have faced. It’s not only empowering, it is also promising. You might not know whom your story might impact, but know this, your story will impact.

  • Why did you choose the path you did?

My reason for taking up medicine as part of my career choice is due to Africa’s high infant and maternal mortality rate. Deaths that are preventable are caused by diseases that are curable which is something that has bothered me from a young age. It also saddens me that the rural areas of our african nations are either completely left behind or simply paid too little attention in terms of being provided with the necessary medical care and the necessary health care, and sanitary education. I aim at making a difference, one patient at a time.

  • What would you tell another young woman who wants to go down the same path?

Never give up, never give in. Stay focused at achieving your goals. Most importantly, be yourself. Don’t let society influence you into becoming someone else.

  • What do you do to give back to your community?

My volunteering at Maanisha enables me to attend school visits with Maanisha thus giving me an opportunity to speak to young pupils in high school alongside the Maanisha team as they aim in giving career guidance to these children, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and work at nurturing their gifts and talents.

  • If you could tell young women 1 thing, what would it be?

“Msidanganyike!” swahili for  “Don’t be fooled