In commemoration of International Epilepsy Day, the University of Venda’s Faculty of Health Sciences through the GladAfrica Epilepsy Research Project (GERP) (University of Venda), led by Prof Lufuno Makhado, recently held an International Epilepsy Day Webinar which was curtain-raised by International Epilepsy Day Awareness Fun Walk from the UNIVEN Main gate to different parts of the University of Venda.
The Webinar was aimed at uncovering and unleashing the evidence on the severe stigma that Epileptic people face in rural and urban communities. The Webinar was an engagement session aimed at awareness, and information sharing of findings from GERP with the central theme of Stigma faced by people living with Epilepsy.
As she was welcoming attendees, the Acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof Tshilidzi Mulaudzi indicated that the stigma around Epilepsy is very high, unlike other diseases.
Prof Mulaudzi explained that the symptoms of Epilepsy cannot be hidden, once a person gets a seizure attack everyone will be able to see that the person has been attacked and needs help. She mentioned that most people do not know a lot about the disease and that it can be managed. “It has a lot of physiological implications,” She highlighted.
She further elaborated that previous studies have found that there is a low rate of marriages and high rate of divorce for people living with Epilepsy. “It shows that people do not understand this disease.” Prof Mulaudzi said UNIVEN is excited to be associated with GladAfrica Foundation that saw a need to fund this project in order to educate people about Epilepsy to improve the quality of life for people living with the disease and find solutions to this problem of stigmatisation. Prof Mulaudzi also indicated that there are PhD candidates who are benefiting from this project.
The Deputy Dean, Research and Postgraduate Studies who is also the principal investigator in this research project, Prof Lufuno Makhado briefly shared the overview of how the project started. He mentioned that the Gladafrica Epilepsy Research Project was launched in February 2020 during International Epilepsy week. He said the Project has always focused on developing awareness programmes, culturally congruent interventions, and life skills guidelines for primary school leaners. He said, “The latter is imperative in the reduction of stigma towards Epilepsy.”
There were various presentations made during the International Epilepsy Day Webinar that unpacked various issues based on the available evidence from the Epilepsy South Africa (Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province Branch), GladAfrica Foundation Trust, and the GladAfrica Epilepsy Research Project.
Mrs Ntwanano Wendy Mashaba, Co-Chairperson GladAfrica Foundation Trust talked about GladAfrica Foundation Trust: Towards Eradicating Epilepsy-related Stigma.
Followed by a presentation by Ms Rebecca Mashigo, Director Epilepsy South Africa, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Branch and the focus was on Collaborative approach aimed at ending stigma towards people living with epilepsy.
Ms Ofhani Musekwa, PhD Candidate, GladAfrica Epilepsy Research Project, University of Venda, presented on Stigma as perceived by people living with Epilepsy: GERP Findings. Ms Thendo Gertie Makhado, PhD Candidate, GladAfrica Epilepsy Research Project, University of Venda, highlighted the Impact of Stigma among future leaders (Primary School People Living with Epilepsy): GERP Findings
Prof Rachel Lebese, Research Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Co-investigator GERP at UNIVEN, acknowledged the guests.
The programme was facilitated by Prof Angelina Maphula who is the Co-Principal Investigator of GERP at UNIVEN’s Faculty of Health Sciences.
The International Epilepsy Week also comprised of multiple engagements with radio stations. The team educated several communities through the following radio stations.
Ms Munyadziwa (Master of Public Health), Ms Musekwa Ofhani (PhD in Psychology) GERP Students and Ms Mulalo Maumela (Project Administrator) kickstarted epilepsy week awareness campaign on Friday, 10 February 2023, where they had their first epilepsy week radio interview on UNIVEN FM. The purpose of the interview was successful as it created awareness about epilepsy week activities and conscientised the audience about epilepsy, its causes, management and stigma.
Ms Muimeleli Munyadziwa was interviewed on Vhembe FM on Monday, 13 February 2023 providing Epilepsy stigma related information and the importance of accepting people living with Epilepsy.
Prof Angelina Maphula was on Phalaphala FM on 13 and 14 February 2023, unpacking the stigma among people living with Epilepsy and the importance of awareness in our communities to ensure that people living with Epilepsy are not excluded nor discriminated against from social engagement based upon their illness.
Prof Maria Sonto Maputle Co-investigator in GERP had a successful radio interview with Capricorn FM on Thursday, 16 February 2023.
Everything was done in an effort to reach out to as many relevant audiences as possible striving to create awareness and curb the stigma experienced by people living with Epilepsy. “It is indeed a year that we need to join hands to eradicate stigma towards people living with epilepsy,” expressed Prof Makhado.
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Date: 27 February 2023