*Trigger warning: This story contains details about sexual assault.
Sharon Mashaba is a 25-year-old brave, resilient and smart young woman whose goal is to reach greater heights. She is from a small village called Shigamani in Limpopo and as a survivor of sexual trauma and depression, is determined to never allow her past experiences stand in the way of her dreams.
Sharon is a student, vocalist, founder of the Jonathan’s Foundation, and an author of Life Without Limitations. She is proof that challenges don’t really have to make us shrink from the greatness we want to achieve, but instead challenges should be a push for us to work harder towards our goals.
Tell us about Jonathan’s Foundation.
I started the foundation because of the love I have for kids and helping other people. The foundation was named after my son Jonathan. The name Jonathan is biblical, and it means “God’s gift.” I hate seeing people suffer, thus I’d rather share from the little that I have.
Jonathan’s Foundation was founded to help the needy and also offer help to those suffering from anxiety or depression. Through the foundation, we’ve given out school uniforms to some of the less privileged kids in the village, and also we’ve managed to help people with psychological issues through social media platforms and phone calls.
What led to writing your book?
The motive behind writing the book was for me to heal because I [am someone] who has been through depression. The book served as a way of venting and sharing useful information that helped me during my battle with depression and how I managed to be productive after conquering depression.
When I got to varsity, my first year, I was raped by [some] boys on campus. They did this because I showed no interest in them. When all this happened, I had no emotional support or any kind of support. This led me to dropping out because, later that year, I was diagnosed with depression and it was excessive. I was unable to write my exams, and that was a huge downfall for me. I was also a victim of sexual harassment.
Again [during] the same year when I thought I was getting better, my then-boyfriend forced me to be intimate with him because he thought I was making up the rape story. That’s when I conceived.
When my parents found out that I was pregnant, they disowned me, and I was forced to go and stay with my boyfriend and his family.
Life became tough for me. I became a submissive [person]. I would wake up and work from morning until evening without getting enough rest, and later, I’d have to sleep with my boyfriend by force. Some days he would physically abuse me. One day, I decided to tell my cousin about the treatment I was getting. She told my parents, and that’s when they decided to take me back. I had already delivered by then and had a baby boy.
While all this was happening, I journaled and it would actually make me feel at ease a bit.
My advice is that in order to be mentally healthy, you’ve got to stop dwelling on your past. Start focusing on the present and finding solutions, i.e., get a professional to help you deal with the mental problem because what you do now is what will determine your future.
What always pulls me back together during tough times is where I come from. I’ve fought and conquered battles that were meant to put me down, thus whenever I come across challenging times, I always have a strong feeling that I’m a conqueror, and this too shall pass.
What I love about myself is that I’m brave and resilient. The reason why I love this about myself is because I learnt these from the harsh experiences I’ve had. What was supposed to hurt or break me doesn’t have power anymore. I’ve become braver to an extent that I no longer look for validation from anyone, but I go for what I want regardless of what people think, and that’s bravery to me.