Positive Women's Network (PWN), San Francisco, South Africahttp://www.idex.org/partner.php?partner_id=24
Raised so far: $17,235.12
Great news - this project has reached its funding target. Thank you to everyone who donated. Search for another cause to support
Positive Women's Network (PWN), San Francisco, South Africahttp://www.idex.org/partner.php?partner_id=24
Support, counseling, education and income-generating opportunities to help poor women with HIV/AIDS overcome such issues as stigma and lack of access to resources and treatment.
South Africa has the highest number of women infected with HIV/AIDS in the world. Stigma and discrimination against them, lack of knowledge about accessing treatment, and deep poverty have left these women in a precarious position. But there is hope. And it begins with the women. And you. Through a network of support groups that empower and educate these women, they are able to take matters into their own hands to access treatment, live healthier lives, and support themselves and their children
Positive Women’s Network provides HIV-positive women with women-led support groups to address stigma; grief counseling; workshops on treatment literacy, reproductive health and nutrition; and opportunities for income-generating projects like weaving.
PWN operates a “train-the-trainers program” where women are trained to form new support groups- a huge multiplier effect in numbers of women reached. Thousands of women will continue to manage HIV while learning skills to support their families.
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to this project. It is now fully funded!
We also have some very exciting news. On July 12, the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) honored Positive Women’s Network (PWN) with a Red Ribbon award in recognition of PWN’s outstanding community leadership and action on AIDS.
Out of 720 nominations received by the UNDP from more than 100 countries, the 25 winners were judged to have demonstrated “the most remarkable efforts in terms of innovation, impact, sustainability, strategic partnerships, gender sensitivity and social inclusion.”
Founded in 1996 by Prudence Mabele, PWN operates in townships outside of Johannesburg to provide support to HIV-positive women and to raise awareness within the greater community. To combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, PWN encourages HIV-positive women to “come out” about their HIV status and form support groups to address discrimination.
PWN also provides resources about how to access treatment and Anti-Retroviral drugs, outreach on accurate HIV/AIDS information and strategies for supporting orphaned and vulnerable children.
Prudence is now in Vienna on behalf of PWN to participate in the XVIII International AIDS conference, where she will be honored at a formal awards ceremony. She and her fellow award winners will also host a forum for dialogue and exchange between community representatives and policy makers.
We are delighted that the UNDP has honored PWN with this prestigious award and extend a thank you to all of our donors who have helped support PWN’s commitment to AIDS awareness.
To learn more about how PWN helps women in South Africa, please see our focus story on Gladys Nikelo, a member of PWN.
However PWN’s work continues so we have created a new project for you to support – here http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/fight-hiv-aids-in-south-africa, project ID #6005.
With your help, the support group leaders reached a total of 859 homes in the PWN program areas. This is a notable achievement considering the difficulty of penetrating homes when it comes to dealing with issues relating to HIV and AIDS.
The support group leaders report many challenges they have to face as they try and reach more people, such as high rates of drug and alcohol abuse and incidences of women tolerating sexual abuse of their children at the hands of their boyfriends. The group leaders report that some women are forced to stay in such abusive relationships due to financial dependence.
The group leaders also report that although the government has played its part in promoting some awareness campaigns, it is still a challenge to combat stigma around HIV/AIDS. The group leaders report that through engaging the community as a whole in educational and awareness programs, they see noticeable reductions in stigma and more women seeking treatment.
By donating to PWN you are ensuring more families can benefit from this program.
Thank you for your support.
On Tuesday, March 16, all donations up to $1,000 per donor, per project will be matched. Donate on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, and maximize your gift. International Women's Day was this week, and to celebrate amazing and strong women and girls in South Africa, we wanted to share with you the great work going on at PWN that you have supported. With your support in the past year PWN was able to serve approximately 300 people in 7 community groups. PWN excelled in getting the word out about HIV and AIDs – in particular, advocating for the human rights of women living with HIV and AIDS. They also participated in marches to raise awareness of the challenges faced by women who live with HIV and AIDS. Key to this is encouraging women to learn their HIV/AIDS status by undergoing voluntary counseling and testing. PWN ensures that they are available to women to provide them with counseling and enable them to access to other support groups in their area. PWN has been recognized by the Department of Health and Social Welfare in South Africa as an important partner in its outstanding service delivery to women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. They praise PWN for its work in: o Providing assistance to HIV-positive women at local hospitals and clinics o Assisting in obtaining Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs) for women with CD4 counts less than 200 o Providing assistance for members unable to work due to ill health to access the social development grant for disability PWN’s partnership with the Department of Home Affairs also allows PWN to help women get official identity documents such as birth or death certificates for the children whose mothers died. The documents are necessary to access grants. While the South African government does make available a number of social grants, few women know of these resources. PWN’s counseling services make women aware of the support that is available for them if needed. But PWN also assists women to develop their own plans to become healthy and find work. Their goal is to ensure that a culture of dependency on the grants does not occur.
PWN is participating in the Give More – Get More Challenge. When you donate to PWN from now through Dec 1, your will be matched. The more you give, and encourage your friends to give, the more matching funds will be allocated.
IDEX Program Officer, Katherine Zavala, visited PWN earlier this year and met Gladys, an Outreach Coordinator for PWN. Gladys shared her incredible story with us.
When Gladys Nikelo discovered she was HIV-positive in 1999, she was 15-years old. Needing support, she turned to her family. They turned their back on her. Initially, Gladys kept her HIV status secret, did not seek treatment, and watched her health decline.
This is an all-too-common occurrence in South Africa, where HIV/AIDS infection rates reach nearly 40% *in some areas. Stigma prevents HIV/AIDS being discussed and restricts accurate information about prevention and treatment.
In 2003, Gladys happened to see Prudence Mabele, the founder of Positive Women’s Network (PWN) on TV. She was amazed at how confident Prudence appeared even while she was talking about being HIV-positive.
Gladys went on a mission to find Prudence. And, when she did, she immediately signed up as a member of one of PWN’s support groups. For the first time since her diagnosis she no longer felt alone. Now she was part of a community that understood what she was going through.
Through PWN, she learned about her illness and how to access treatment and Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs). Gladys also learned about good nutrition, essential for the ARVs to be effective. With the support of PWN, Gladys decided to “come out” with her HIV-positive status and to challenge those who discriminate against those who are HIV-positive. Gladys became an active, confident PWN member.
In 2008, Prudence asked her to become the Outreach Coordinator in the township of Kwathema. In this role, Gladys now organizes a number of discussion groups with the church youth group. Her goal is to organize even more discussion groups to involve all the youth in the townships.
She also works to inform families about resources for HIV-positive people, often participating in “funeral outreach.” That is, at the invitation of family members of someone who has died of AIDS, she and other PWN members attend the funeral as an opportunity to educate others about the disease.
Today, Gladys is on ARVs and has a four-year old boy who, because she was able to access key information about mother-to-child transmission, is HIV-negative. Gladys still tires easily and deals with health issues, but with the support of PWN, she has found the strength to face the future and live life richly despite her illness.
When asked her opinions of PWN, Gladys responds, “Because of PWN, I’m a strong person. And with my strength, I hope to lead other women who are HIV-positive to be strong as well.”
Renew your support for women like Gladys and PWN today, and donate while there are matching funds still available.
Through their support groups, PWN continues to address such vital topics as treatment literacy, accessing health care treatment, preventing the spread of HIV/AIDs, fighting stigma, and leadership training for outreach coordinators.
Beyond the day-to-day activities, PWN’S director Prudence Mabele continues her impressive advocacy efforts. She is very visible and well connected which greatly serves the organization’s members as opportunities arise beyond PWN’s core planned activities. For example, she was part of the national planning process to fight AIDs and she generally schedules all of PWN’s activities so that they are synchronized with broader movements (health rights campaigns, violence against women awareness raising activities, TB testing offered by allied groups etc.). Having been a part of the national AIDs planning process, she is abreast of all of the medical trials going on in Johannesburg that group members can access if they wish to be a part of the newest possibilities for treatment. And she has liaised with a social worker that is training the PWN groups on grief and loss counseling. And, as you’ll see below, a recent site visit in April by IDEX program officers to one of PWN’s support groups gives a great sense of life in the townships and how your generous gift continues to provide meaningful services for many women and their families:
“We first went to the township of Wattville to meet with one of the groups supported by Positive Women's Network (PWN), located an hour away from downtown Johannesburg. Wattville is home to approx 100 to 150 families. The support group has 57 members
Right now, the main challenge that people face here is unemployment. Many families have had to depend on social grants provided by the government, but these barely cover rent and food.
Monique, a support group member of Wattville since 2002, shared with us how difficult it has been to find a job. She joined the support group to be part of a women's group in her township. A year later, she tested positive for HIV during her pregnancy with her fourth daughter. Pregnancy is a common way for women to find out that they're HIV-positive. Because she was already part of the support group she knew the importance of coming out as an HIV-positive woman. Not hiding that you are HIV-positive is empowering and can raise awareness that it is possible to live positively and without shame. That Monique was motivated to do this speaks to the great support system PWN has cultivated for hundreds of women like her.
Every Thursday, Monique brings her daughters to the support group meetings. She wants them to be aware of HIV, especially since they are young women. And young women living in townships have a high probability of being raped. This is a harsh reality in South Africa, where a woman is raped every 18 seconds and where HIV is an unfortunately part of so many lives.
The main activity of this support group is treatment literacy. HIV-positive women learn how to access treatment and the importance of continuing with treatment. The group is also attending workshops to learn how to start additional support groups and how to counsel each other.
PWN has been continuing to provide basic education on HIV/AIDS, care, and support to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the last several months, PWN provided training for: • 30 women to be leaders capable of general HIV/AIDS counseling to other women • 20 women to lead support groups for people infected/affected by HIV/AIDS • 30 women to gain entrepreneurial skills such as catering, craft and jewelry production • 100 women to gain access to information on antiretroviral therapy, its importance, and tools and resources to help them remain on regular treatment regimens
PWN has also been active with their advocacy and outreach activities. Since our last update, they have continued to mobilize their participants to engage in awareness campaigns. Impressively, they helped organize a march of about 1,500 women for the One in Nine Campaign, which advocated that the government take action to prevent violence against women and children. Outreach activities like these not only benefit the townships as a whole but gives the women involved a sense of empowerment and control in their own lives. Throughout the last 3 months, they also conducted extensive door-to-door campaigns in various townships to raise awareness. The biggest campaign was on World AIDS Day, December 1st. In these door-to-door campaigns, members canvas their township to pass out condoms, brochures, and talk about the benefits of joining a support group, and encourage their neighbors to learn more about HIV/AIDS prevention.
The South African Departments of Health and Social Welfare have recognized PWN as an important partner due to its outstanding service delivery to women infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
PWN is also filling crucial holes created by the AIDS epidemic. They recently partnered with the South Africa Department of Home Affairs to enable access to identity cards and birth certificates for children whose mothers were PWN members and passed away before preparing these documents for their children. This identification is critical to the success of the child: orphaned children must have documents to receive grants to eat and to continue with schooling.
This past May, Positive Women’s Network (PWN) facilitated anti-retroviral(ARV) drug treatment training to 42 group members and coordinators from 4 support groups. In this training, support group members learned how ARV treatment works for women living with HIV. The training emphasized the importance of using ARVs when you are HIV positive and how otherwise the immune system would deteriorate.
The women who participated in this training will use this learning to help their door-to-door campaigns. Through door-to-door campaigns members are able to reach out to people within their communities. By introducing PWN, the members are able to talk about the benefits of joining a support group and encourage their neighbors to address HIV/AIDS stigma directly.
In addition to the formation of support groups, PWN also organizes community forums that are held every quarter with all support group members. They recently held such a forum.
The forums are a way for several support groups to come together to participate in a educational action or campaign for larger issues that affect their area. This provides an opportunity for support group members to become more active and share experiences with other support group members that PWN facilitates.
PWN has seen women who participate in their support groups and forums become more active in various campaigns to address local community issues. The latest campaign initiated by PWN is called the “777 campaign” and it seeks to bring awareness on violence against women. The “777 Campaign” was launched to commemorate the deaths of Sizakele Sigasa, PWN’s Outreach Coordinator, and her friend, Salome Masoa who were raped and murdered on July 7, 2007. Women participating in the support groups and forums are currently following up on two rape cases in the local courts, as a result of their participation in the “777 campaign”.
Not only are women receiving counseling through the support groups facilitated by PWN, but they are also exercising their self-confidence as they start to become more proactive in ways that can help the whole community and particularly women.
In October 2007, PWN reported details of their training program, where trainers carry out HIV/AIDS treatment literacy workshops. In the past two months, six newly trained trainers on HIV treatment literacy provided information and brought resources to their support groups. As a result, 60 women have benefited from the workshops led by these new trainers. Since October, PWN has also facilitated counseling for over 100 women living with HIV/AIDS. These counseling sessions allow women to talk openly about their illness and identify ways to cope with depression and the stigma they face as a result of being HIV positive. This is critical, as women often have no one to turn to for support after being diagnosed as HIV positive.
Women’s depression is frequently compounded by poverty and a lack of access to resources, which PWN also works to address through workshops and skills development. In fact recent research* highlights the increasing evidence of a direct correlation between heightened suicide rates and a diagnosed HIV positive status. PWN is working to turn this around through counseling and support group programs.
* Suicidal Behaviour in South Africa by Lourens Schlebusch, 2005 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press.
PWN has established a strong network of 14 support groups, and are currently trying to recruit more women to participate as well as starting new support groups. The support groups involve women who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
As part of this process, PWN recently trained 20 support group facilitators. In their trainings, the facilitators learn to manage a support group and gain skills on facilitating and resolving group conflicts. Facilitators are also trained to know about different toolkits and booklets to distribute to support group members as well as how to bring in new members.
The main way PWN recruits members are through door-to-door campaigns where members canvas their township and talk about the benefits of joining a support group and encourage their neighbors to address stigma directly. Additionally, family members who have lost their loved one to AIDS invite PWN members to funerals. During these “Funeral Outreach” meetings, PWN members educate the family and friends about the disease, how they can get tested, and what other resources are available to them.
PWN’s support groups help to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women in South Africa. Their objective is to empower these women by providing them with psychosocial support and peer counseling to learn to live positively by dealing with this virus and to share this with their families. The support group provides a space for women to have an open dialogue about their lives as well as sharing information about HIV-prevention and treatment.
Training of trainers on Treatment literacy
Positive Women’s Network (PWN) recently ran a series of HIV treatment literacy workshops for support groups to inform people of risk-reduction life choices. PWN carries out these three five-day workshops on a regular basis. During the recent workshops, PWN trained 160 women on HIV treatment literacy and traditional healing medicine. PWN used the Population Council's manual on Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) during the trainings.
The training covered critical topics such as HIV and Antiretroviral treatment, how fight disease, the importance of sticking to a regular treatment regime, and tools to help people remain on a treatment regime. These trainings are important as few women have access to any information about HIV/AIDS nor do they know of treatment or resources to help them. Once they are able to establish a treatment regimen their health improves. They become stronger and are able to hold down a job and in turn provide for their children and families.