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Freedom Day: The Faces of South Africa's Freedom

As South Africa celebrates Freedom Day, nine citizens with different lived experiences open up about what freedom looks, and feels, like for each of them.

South Africa's Freedom Day, celebrated annually on April 27, is a national holiday that commemorates the first democratic and post-Apartheid elections that ushered in its first Black president, the late Nelson Mandela. And while South Africa has been 'enjoying' its fledgling democracy for 27 years, freedom remains a markedly varied experience for different South Africans.

From differently abled individuals and Black women to members of the queer community, we spoke to nine South Africans from multiple walks of life to find out what freedom looks like for them and others like them. We also asked whether they feel free in South Africa, and what the country can do better going forward to ensure that the freedom they have always imagined can be realised during their lifetimes.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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Image supplied by Candice Chirwa.

In Conversation with Candice Chirwa: 'Menstruation is More than Just Bleeding for Seven Days.'

South African activist Candice Chirwa, the 'Minister of Menstruation', speaks to us about what a period-positive world looks like, the challenges menstruators face even in 2020 and her important advocacy work with QRATE.

It's 2020, and naturally, tremendous advancements have been made across various spheres of society. From the prospect of self-driving cars and drones delivering medicines to rural areas to comparatively progressive politics and historic "firsts" for many disenfranchised groups, we've certainly come a long way. However, in the midst of all that progress, there is still one issue which continues to lag behind considerably and consistently, particularly in less developed countries: menstruation.

Candice Chirwa is a young Black woman on a mission to fiercely change the disempowering narratives and taboos that still shroud the issue of menstruation. The 24-year-old South African activist, who is endearingly known as the "Minister of Menstruation" on social media, wants young girls and women to not only accept but embrace their bodies fully in a society that insists on speaking in hushed tones about a perfectly normal biological process. Both Chirwa's research and advocacy work with the UN and her award-winning NGO, QRATE, has focused on dispelling common myths about menstruating, removing the shame and stigma around it and giving menstruators the knowledge and tools they need to navigate their world through impactful workshops.

And when Chirwa isn't collaborating with Lil-Lets, one of the biggest sanitary product brands on the continent, or co-authoring a bad-ass book titled Perils of Patriarchy, she's dominating the TEDx stage and making sure that her audience, no matter how diverse or varied, leaves the room feeling comfortable and courageous enough to boldly shout the word "vagina".

We caught up with Chirwa to discuss what initially compelled her to become a "period-positive" activist, her continued advocacy work with QRATE and what kind of world she imagines for menstruators.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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