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Nomzamo Mbatha is currently wearing her philanthropist hat, and has been roped by Unicef and the Cotton On Foundation to help with a global vaccine fund-raising campaign.
The campaign, which has been launched by Cotton On, where proceeds from some sales of their products, including masks and tote bags, aims to help deliver a million Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable communities.
We spoke to the Coming 2 America star about her philanthropic work and the role the youth can play with doing their bit to curbing infections.
How did you get into philanthropy?
I started as a young girl in high school. My Grade 8 teacher got me involved in a lot of societies, including Interact, where we and visited old age homes in Sydenham, Durban bringing them gifts and helping to clean up. I was then nominated to go to Kenya, by Save the Children Sweden, which became my first interaction with people from around the continent.
They wanted us to share the problems we faced as young people in our countries. I then got into the Youth Parliament and that was extensive work. I grew up in KwaMashu and I was acutely aware of the socio-economic situation my community faced and I was exposed to it. You can’t grow out of it and forget about it. My grandmother instilled in me the importance of charity work and looking after fellow members of the community.
How much time is reserved for your philanthropic work?
Oh, a lot of time. Sometimes I feel guilty because I have two big jobs– as an actress and also being a change agent. I am constantly navigating between the two.
A few years ago, the South African youth were accused of not caring enough about what’s happening in the country. Do you think that statement is fair?
The statement is fair. It’s very easy to fall in the ditch of being apathetic. When you are surrounded by lack of and a system that continues to fail you and is plagued by corruption, and you try your very best to circumvent all of that and you get hit by a door in your face. It’s very easy to feel like there’s no point in trying to fix anything because when you do try, it’s plagued by corruption. Until we get to the root cause of it, we can’t help the fruit for how it comes out.
Vaccine hoarding has reminded us just how unequal we are in the world. Is this campaign to help right the ‘wrongs’ of what has happened since the beginning of the year?
I think it’s an effort to right the wrongs and play a part in the greater scheme of things. We have moved from a pandemic that filled us with fear, hesitancy and now there are certain solutions that are out there. Vaccine equity is especially important and I think why the foundation has picked up its hands and realised the role that the retail industry can play in righting the wrongs that we can be accountable to the people who support the retail industry.
Vaccine equity is going to be a great morality test for the global community and reminding the world that we can’t celebrate the First World having access to the vaccine and how they have gone, while there are millions of people who have been left behind and do not have access to the vaccine.
Do you think we are going to see more of these kinds of fashion with a purpose campaigns, that are specifically there for a good cause?
Oh, absolutely. It’s going to be a great example of how we can be innovative in solving the problems the world faces. With Cotton On being able to have these products specifically for the campaign, it shows retailers that they can be part of the solution.
Last year, we had Christian Siriano, a major designer, turning his atelier into a PPE studio. So there are so many different ways we can be part of the solution. I know that back home, we are struggling, especially with the roll-out plan and the lack of information. So us being able to contribute to making sure that we are all able to make sure there are 1 million vaccines for vulnerable people.
It being Youth Month, what role can the South African youth play to make sure we try our best to defeat this pandemic?
To minimise the ignorance around the virus. Of course, we all want to be outside and our life back. We all miss it. Not being able to travel has been so depressing for so many of us who love it.
I really hope we can be smarter in our choices and decisions and know that it affects the people that we live it. When you are outside and living your best life, remember that you can bring the virus home to someone who has been at home the whole time.