- After losing her beloved mother to leukemia, she cycled to 600 villages encouraging women to screen for cervical cancer. She then took a leap of faith and reached the Roof of Africa in six days
They often say it is through our wounds that we discover our purpose. This rings true of Ouma Rammidi and her journey of mercy in which she raises awareness about cervical cancer through a peculiar medium – a bicycle.
Her welcoming ceremony was held at Avani in Gaborone on February 24.
Knowing that no woman should be dying of cervical cancer in this day and age, Ouma’s pain of seeing her mother perish due to another form of cancer, leukemia, drove her to do something.
“I saw my own mother die of cancer,” she says. “She was a very strong woman whom I thought death would never conquer. It was painful to see her strength and health wither every day. Growing up as an orphan, I had to toughen up quickly. I know cancer; it devours everything and anything in its path. So I transformed this pain of loss into a cause that I have become passionate about.”
Travelling to various remote villages to help women screen for cervical cancer, Ouma and her team set off for three months, setting in place a mobile hospital: “It’s the women in the rural areas who are affected by cervical cancer the most,” she notes. “Through the cycling challenge, we target schools, dikgotla and women, encouraging them to vaccinate and do the screenings. So far we have reached 600 communities in Botswana, and it all started with me and my bicycle.”
Through her annual cycling challenge, the “Ouma Cycling Charity Tour” that has been running since 2013, many women have been treated successfully in rural areas. She then sought to take a bigger test of faith and resilience by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to expand the impact of her project this year.
“We needed cruisers so we decided to embark on this journey,” she explains. “Even putting it together was a strenuous process but it was so fulfilling to see it unfold.”
She reached the Roof of Africa on February 20. “It takes an average of seven days to reach the peak, but I took six. Through my personal trainer, I learned how to store oxygen in my lungs. I was the only woman who made it to the summit from our group. It was freezing, but I made it.
“I am willing to put myself through anything. Temporary pain or discomfort mean nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, which is an often painful process.
Dr Mmakgomo ‘Mimi’ Raesima explained at the welcoming ceremony: “As the Ministry of Health, our mandate is to empower the public with education because cervical cancer is highly treatable. One notable advance in screening methods is visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), which allows us as trained health workers to spot cervical abnormalities with just a speculum exam.
“There’s also the HPV Vaccine which is given to girls as young as 10 years. We encourage all women to screen, especially between the ages of 30 and 45 years. We see women coming in with bruises while on treatment because their partners do not understand what they are going through. These women need a lot of support,”
Ouma hails her supportive team and the sponsors she has affiliated with through her journey. Her tours are made possible by Skyways Travel, SuperFit Gym, the Ministry of Health, Avani and Choppies.