Unjani clinics empower women

Sister Martha Modiba of Unjani Clinic Klipfontein in action

Sister Martha Modiba of Unjani Clinic Klipfontein in action

Access to affordable healthcare is the basic right of every human being. Sadly, 84% of South Africans are dependent on an overburdened public healthcare system. The need for the urgent transformation of the South African healthcare system led to the development of Unjani Clinics NPC (non-profit company), a development initiative that empowers black women who are professional nurses to own and operate a sustainable primary healthcare clinic (PHC), staffed by a dispensing nurse and clinic assistant. 

Each clinic is donated to a nurse in the community of her choice after successful completion of the application and selection processes. “Once the selection process has been completed, the NPC awards an Unjani Clinic infrastructure, equipment, content, etcetera to the professional nurse,” says Lynda Toussaint, chief executive of Unjani.  “She operates as a sole proprietor — owning and operating the primary healthcare clinic business. She is self-employed and also employs two other people from the community.”  

Unjani provides back-end support such as logistics, supply chain, pricing and supplier services, as well as training and mentoring to ensure that each nurse has the necessary tools to own and operate a sustainable business. This has proved to be a successful formula for empowering both the women running the clinics and the surrounding communities.  

Since its inception in September 2010, Unjani has helped more than 80 000 people, averaging about 6 000 patients monthly. Nineteen clinics currently form part of the network, in areas including Kwaggafontein (Mpumalanga), Orange Farm (southern Gauteng), Tembisa (Ekurhuleni) and Winterveld (Tshwane). 

The impact of Unjani Clinics is best articulated by the women who run the clinics themselves: “Having the Unjani clinic has brought relief to the community of Katlehong as they verbalise that our healthcare service is one of the best,” says Relebohile Mollo, the owner-operator of Unjani Clinic Katlehong. “One needs to also mention the financial freedom that Unjani has brought to us; one can focus on work and building an empire that will benefit both the business and the community without having the life stresses that one previously carried from month to month.”  

Sister Olebogeng Sibanda, the owner-operate of Unjani Clinic Mogolelo, says that she receives “total, 100% support’ from the NPC. “Emotionally, psychologically and financially, knowing someone is always there and ready to help me is so important. I’m not alone, compared to when I was working at a state clinic.”  

For Sister Phindi Nkosi of Unjani Clinic, Windmill, the experience has been one filled with lessons about how to succeed: “I’ve learned that in order to be successful one needs to be disciplined and work very hard,” she says.  “Unjani has taught me not to just work for money, but to love what I’m doing and always put my patients first.  Through their training and support, I’m now able to identify the strength within, the patience and passion to reach my goals.  I’m also learned not to be afraid to take a chance … and go after my dream.”