Marije Versteeg

Project manager: Rural Health Advocacy Project

Marije Versteeg speaks fast, her vocabulary laced with medical jargon, in an accent that falls somewhere between the Netherlands and South Africa. But despite her textbook-speak it is clear that "rural-proofing� is something she knows a great deal about and lobbies for resiliently. Rural-proofing, a process of reviewing policies for their impact on rural healthcare, is one of the primary functions of the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), which she joined in 2009 when it was established. "South Africa has a high health budget, but some countries with lower ones have better outcomes because we are not deploying our human resources to areas where they are needed the most,� she says. Rural areas, home to 43.6% of the population, are served by only 12% of South Africa's doctors and 19% of its nurses. A key strategic partner in balancing out this discrepancy is the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa, which strives for staffing by appropriately skilled medical staff. A good way of achieving this equilibrium, Versteeg believes, would be to strike a balance between individual freedom and the needs of the population as a whole so that well-meaning policies actually solve rural problems. Versteeg fell in love with South Africa in 2002, when she arrived to do research on Aids in the workplace. She spent four years at the Madibeng Centre for Research in the rural northwest, working as a researcher in rural health issues. Today, she holds a master's degree in organisational anthropology and social sciences, is a permanent resident and the proud mother of a nine-year-old boy born in South Africa.�Kwanele Sosibo