Dr Aayesha Soni

Community service doctor, Helen Joseph Hospital

Dr Aayesha Soni (26) completed her medical degree at University of the Witwatersrand at the age of 23 and was a recipient of the vice-chancellor’s scholarship from her first year on campus until completing her degree. While completing her degree and working as a doctor, she was the vice chairperson of the Media Review Network — a South African-based nongovernmental organisation whose main purpose is striving to promote the ideals of justice and human rights.

Her passion for human rights and justice has seen her writing on health advocacy and creating awareness around human rights issues, as well as working for humanitarian missions. From the age of 16, her written critiques have evolved from letters to the editor to fullyfledged opinion columns and have appeared in leading national and international publications, including the United Nations’ department of public information website.

As a student, she published a 30-page booklet to help create awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. This booklet is presented to university students at workshops designed to equip them in assisting the path of justice. She was also active in student politics and was on the committees of various student organisations. She joined a humanitarian mission to the Gaza strip in 2013, where her experience of working in Al-shifa hospital was published in the South African Medical Journal.

“It was dangerous and my parents were worried,” she concedes. “But the people I met were amazing — they stayed strong and faithful. The experience emphasised for me why I wanted to be a doctor.” An academic case report that Soni authored featured in the British Journal of Neurosurgery this year. Currently engaged with her year of community service at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, she hopes to continue working in the public sector, improving her skills, before focusing on humanitarian aid work.

“I’d like to work with an organisation like Doctors Without Borders or Gift of the Givers. What drives me is that I am Muslim, and Islam says you should always have a quest for humanity and human rights. Using Islam as a guide for life is really helpful.”

— Tracy Burrows

Twitter: @AayeshaJ