In her endeavours to make South Africa a healthier country, Safura Abdool Karim knows the importance of continuing to try, even when it feels like failure is inevitable.
“Too often, we are afraid to make mistakes but, really, we should celebrate our mistakes as part and parcel of the road to success,” says Safura Abdool Karim. It is this ethos that has guided her throughout her life.
Abdool Karim is currently working within the field of public health as a lawyer, but this isn’t something she envisioned for herself when she originally went into the field of law. Even though she had dreamed of working in public health when she began studying to be a lawyer, Abdool Karim thought she’d ply her trade in the courtroom. But life has a way of coming full circle and she managed to combine her childhood dreams with her adult vision.
As Abdool Karim says, she learnt that you can define your own field and path. This is something she constantly strives to do at her current workplace at PRICELESS SA, a research group in public health. Within the space, Abdool Karim uses her skills to try to make South Africa a healthier place.
She says that, sometimes when she is at work, she has to pinch herself because she gets to do the things she once only dreamed about. Abdool Karim helps support the creation and adoption of new policies and laws to develop new ways of using laws and doing research.
The passion and dedication Abdool Karim brings to her work is a quality she says she has always had. From graduating with her master’s degree to being admitted as an attorney, this passion has been a constant in her drive to succeed.
Another inspirational quality is her dedication to never quitting. One of the special moments in her life was getting accepted as a clerk at the Constitutional Court. She says that, if she hadn’t kept striving and refusing to quit, it might have never happened. She applied many times and failed many times, and it was a constant debate about whether it was worth it or if she should accept the rejection.
“It taught me an important lesson about continuing to try, even when it felt like failure was inevitable,” she says.
Most successful people always say they didn’t get to where they are by themselves. There were always people who encouraged them and kept them going, even when it felt like an impossible dream. For Abdool Karim, those people are her parents. She says they taught her many lessons, and two specific values they instilled in her have been behind much of her drive and focus.
“The first value was to make the world a better place and to work in service to the betterment of my society.” In her work as a public health lawyer, Abdool Karim works towards creating ways for laws to improve people’s lives. The second value her parents taught her was to chart her own course. She has looked at the work of those who came before her and has tried to see how she can improve it or make her own mark.
The world is currently grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and Abdool Karim has been using her strong foundation in HIV and tuberculosis to understand some of the legal issues that have arisen regarding Covid-19.
That’s probably why her advice to impart to others is:
“I think it’s difficult to know what the future holds, more and more what our society will look like in a few years or even months is becoming uncertain. We don’t know what this world will need and what opportunities it may hold, but if you are prepared, you will always be in a position to add value and respond to changing times.”