The attitudes of students towards ‘blesser-blessee’ relationships, the reasons why people engage in these relationships and the opportunities and constraints for changing such relationships, were subjects of research for a master’s degree.
Ms Nompumelelo Doyisa did the investigations for her Masters in Populations Studies qualification she received from UKZN.
Doyisa’s study found that many black families in South Africa faced high levels of unemployment with parents struggling to financially support their children. ‘The peer pressure, luxurious lifestyle portrayed by social networks (mainly Instagram), the rising cost of tuition fees, limited scholarship and bursary opportunities, accommodation and other university needs have been the major reasons why first-year female students engage in sexual relationships with blessers as they want financial assistance,’ she explained.
The heightened risk of HIV infection, sexually transmitted infections and other sexual and reproductive health risks present in these relationships, prompted Doyisa to shed more light on the issue ‘It has become an emerging and growing trend, especially among university students. I hope my study will help policy makers find new strategies to deal with the problem,’ she said.
Doyisa recommends that women be told how to get help when experiencing violence, rape or forced unsafe sex practices, and to be educated on prevention treatments such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).
‘This knowledge is lacking among those who are already involved in blesser-blessee relationships. These women should know how to protect themselves from violence, HIV and other sexual and reproductive health problems,’ she said.
Doyisa suggests that all stakeholders including government and society as a whole ‘need to work together to find new strategies that will deal with violence, sexual and reproductive health problems and other issues facing women in South Africa’.
Doyisa is currently applying for jobs that will help her grow and give her the opportunity to contribute to society through research.
She is looking forward to pursuing another Masters degree in Public Health.