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6 August 2019
UWC made me a world-beater: Bok Babalwa bashes stereotypes

Images: Courtesy of SA Rugby and Babalwa Latsha

(Published - 6 August 2019)

From hope to action through knowledge. No saying or motto resonates with me more.

Having completed my studies towards a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at UWC, I’ve come to the realisation — even more so, the appreciation — of the sporting journey I undertook with UWC five years ago. Young and ambitious, the world was my oyster. I knew I had come to the right place. I had found a home at UWC. I was given the opportunity to hone my athletic abilities and build myself up to what I am today.

By no means was this journey an easy one. Having come from one of the most notorious of townships in Cape Town, Khayelitsha, where the survival of a young, black female is minimal, I knew all too well the difficulties that I would face but, in my heart, I knew that I was not going to be a statistic. That was not my fate.

It was through toil, grind, commitment and courage that I escaped the drug and alcohol abuse and violence that is rife in our communities. UWC Sports was my escape. I became a women’s rugby player at the University.

I came from nothing and knew I had to grab all the opportunities that rugby and UWC presented to me. As a young, black woman playing rugby, I have endured being ridiculed and scoffed at. Rugby has taught me to persevere, to stand up for myself and to be a motivation to others.

We may live in a world where abject poverty and violent crimes are rife, where life expectancy is low and where women do not have agency yet we can still overcome adversity. You can succeed; you can win. You can get an education through sport. You can elevate yourself and empower others.

Many young women athletes are not given platforms; they are isolated, lacking an education and living in poverty. UWC has given me the platform to display my talent to the world. UWC has given me the opportunity to have an education, to be the voice for young female athletes who aspire to greatness. UWC has given me hope and ignited my desire to take action towards a brighter future.

I draw inspiration from Caster Semenya and Serena Williams. These are women who are groundbreakers, who are not afraid to live their truth, who break all stereotypes and refuse to accept mediocrity as the norm — so much so that the world is starting to listen and speak a different narrative because of them. I train extremely hard and have built my physique to be able to handle the rigorous sport of rugby and to compete with elite athletes yet I am ridiculed and sometimes ostracised, even by other women. I continue to be inspired by these phenomenal women as a result.

Today, I am the two-time Inter-Provincial League winning captain. I am the captain of Springbok Women, a Sevens Rugby World Cup participant, UWC’s Women Achiever of the Year 2018, UWC’s Sportswoman of the Year 2018 and UWC’s Women Rugby Player of the Year 2018. I am member of Team South Africa competing in the World Student Games in Italy (which started this past July).

Today, I emerge as a new woman, a holder of an LLB degree, a UWC alumna, a supreme female athlete and a world-class rugby player. Wherever I am in the world, UWC will always be well-represented. UWC is my identity and I am proudly UWC.

This article was first published in the Women's Month special edition of the Blue and Gold - UWC Sports' official magazine. Read the full magazine here.