Letters from South Africa
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1 June, 2004
Jacinta Fox, Christian Aid's southern Africa region
communications and information officer, asked a number of the charity's partner
organisations to reflect on the first ten years of democracy
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The New World Foundation (below)
Introduction to the NWF
New World Foundation (NWF) was founded in 1980 and the aim was to have an umbrella
body uniting a wide range of local church and community organisations. Christian
Aid has supported NWF since 1998.
In the beginning
its role was largely that of an anti-apartheid organisation in that they were
mostly reacting to the crises of the time and trying to assist people where the
state would not.
Their role has now shifted from providing
welfare to that of community empowerment and capacity building through training
The project aims to address the social
and economic depravation in the Lavender Hill community. Lavender Hill is a particularly
deprived area close to Cape Town with high levels of unemployment and violence.
Violent gangs operate in the area and there are high levels of alcohol and drug
New World Foundation works towards the transformation
of society, into one, which allows all people to take their rightful place, free
from oppression, violence and poverty.
main activities are entrepreneurial development/income generation and technical
skills training; education and school readiness; empowerment of women and advice
giving; empowerment of youth and general life skills training.
target group is broad and covers most of the poor of Lavender Hill, which is most
of the population, although there is a focus on women, pre-school children, youth
and the aged.
As the HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads in South
Africa it is beginning to have an impact on the New World Foundation. In response
they are developing appropriate training materials and working with the churches
to raise awareness of the disease.
by Jan de Waal of New World Foundation on ten years of democracy in South Africa
remember the fear and hopelessness when I grew up in a very conservative white
society, but I also remember the transition from that time in my life to a very
productive time of hope and struggle with many others towards liberation and a
new democracy irrespective of race, religion and gender.
many of us from the struggle and many of the youth of today (children after the
struggle) have forgotten to remember the dreams and ideals which were very important
for many of us as guidelines during the struggle towards a new society of justice,
peace and sharing of democracy.
miracle of '94
One constant and larger than life reminder of the
miracle of 1994 is the person of Nelson Mandela. Single handedly, he taught us
the triumph of moderation over prejudice, of looking for a better and more inclusive
way of thinking and acting, steering the new South Africa beyond racism and discrimination.
Have we reached the 'Promised Land' in
the new South Africa? Unfortunately not, because more than 40 per cent of South
Africans still live today in informal housing, in makeshift townships. Nearly
50 per cent of the population is unemployed and a huge fraction still live under
the breadline. The largest portion of the marginalised and the poor (as it was
also in the old South Africa) are women, who remain economically and socially
subordinate, despite our progressive and well-praised constitution.
From the reflection of my own
people during the struggle, experiencing the hope of a new dawn in 1994, seeing
the significant emergence of a new black bourgeoisie. I still have lots of hope
for South Africa and its rainbow democracy and people!
reality would not have been possible without the solidarity and support of many
people and organisations outside South Africa, like Christian Aid in our case.
de Waal, New World Foundation, Lavender Hill,
introduction to Wola Nani
Wola Nani, Xhosa for
'we embrace and develop one another', was established in 1994 as a non-profit
organisation to help bring relief to the communities hardest hit by the HIV crisis.
Formed against a backdrop of economic curtailment on
welfare spending and a huge increase in the number of HIV and AIDS cases, Wola
Nani initiated programmes to help HIV-positive people in the local community cope
with the emotional and financial strains brought about by HIV/AIDS.
society's most vulnerable members, HIV is especially cruel to the poor. Khayelitsha,
for example, a sprawling township 26km from Cape Town, has an HIV rate of 22 per
cent, the highest rate in the Cape Flats.
in three mothers will pass on their infection to their baby - most will die in
their first year with few surviving to the age of five. With health services already
stretched to the limit and unemployment at nearly 50 per cent making extreme economic
hardship a daily reality, Wola Nani is working to fill the gap that leaves people
living with HIV/AIDS particularly exposed.
the needs of HIV positive women and their children, Wola Nani's services aim to
ease the burden of HIV by enabling people living with the virus to respond positively
and attain the skills to develop their own coping strategies.
disenfranchised, disempowered and marginalised, women bear the brunt of the national
pandemic. They have little voice to articulate their needs or to claim the services
on which their survival depends.
Through a counselling
and case management approach, coupled with skills training and income generation
opportunities, they can attain the necessary skills to help themselves achieve
a better quality of life.
holistic family and community support includes support groups, child health monitoring
and day care, plus home based care to help families look after their loved ones
living with the disease.
HIV/AIDS does not just touch
individuals and families, it is a community issue. Only through education, awareness
and understanding of HIV amongst the wider community can the culture of silence
surrounding HIV be broken and the discrimination accompanying ignorance be eliminated.
Myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV and AIDS not
only breed fear of, and stigma against, people living with HIV and their families,
but play a fundamental role in accelerating the spread of the virus.
Wola Nani's outreach programme of AIDS education workshops and awareness initiatives,
staff work within the township communities to raise awareness, provide education
and disseminate information.
In this way, Wola Nani works
towards improving community acceptance of people with HIV and AIDS, combating
discrimination and developing community based responses to prevention, support
Wola Nani's focus on women and their children
does not exclude men but has developed in response to where the need for the organisation's
services is greatest. However, all HIV+ persons regardless of gender, race, age
or religious belief are welcome.
Pat Francis of
Wola Nani reflects on the new struggle in South Africa - HIV/AIDS
emerging non-governmental organisation, Wola Nani sought to respond to the new
challenge of HIV/AIDS. Yet with major social and cultural transformation underway
after the arrival of democracy, HIV presented a problem few wanted, or were able,
An opportunity to focus on the escalating
pandemic in its early stages was missed.
At this time,
little was known about HIV and AIDS and how to cope with its demands. Wola Nani
initiated many different projects attempting to do everything for everyone. However
in time and after expansion, Wola Nani decided to hone down activities to concentrate
support service delivery in conjunction with income generation opportunities within
the Western Cape servicing those most vulnerable - essentially HIV positive women
in the informal settlements.
and denial - the ongoing struggle
Given the nature
of HIV - its apparent random selection, the length of time from infection to illness,
lack of a cure and predominant mode of transition, one could barely have designed
a more dangerous recipe for fear and denial, stigma and discrimination.
these factors, along with the search for a medical cure, define South Africa's
With the government's commitment to
roll out antiretroviral drugs in the public health system, there is now hope for
many of a longer and better life, and with this hope comes greater encouragement
for individuals to come forward for HIV testing and support, and an opportunity
to dispel the secrecy that surrounds the disease.
providing drugs to the many who need them is not without its difficulties and
how effectively this challenge is met will determine the future for many South
One hopes it is a successful precursor to the
administration of a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Wola Nani, Cape Town
introduction to the Diakonia Council of Churches and a reflection on its first
2004 isn't only the 10th anniversary of South
Africa's democracy, but also the 10th anniversary of the Diakonia Council of Churches
- an amalgamation of what used to be known as Diakonia and the Durban and District
Council of Churches.
This amalgamation led to a pooling
of resources, a bigger staff, more member churches, an increase in local funding
from 10 - 30% of our budget, all of which make the ecumenical movement in this
region stronger and better equipped to meet the challenges of these ten years.
1994 was a euphoric time in South Africa, with our first democratic elections
much more peaceful than anyone could have expected given the massive build-up
of political violence in the preceding months.
the heels of the election came the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president
- another remarkable event.
Political violence continued
however to plague KwaZulu-Natal for some years after the elections, but a more
tolerant political culture has gradually taken root as shown in the 2004 elections,
though there is still a way to go.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in such situations,
domestic violence and sexual abuse come strongly to the fore where the trauma
of political violence hasn't been properly dealt with. The hundreds of stress
and trauma counsellors we have trained around the province have made an important
contribution to dealing with these problems and developing a lasting peace.
have a national constitution that is the envy of many nations, and legislated
apartheid is a thing of the past. However poverty and economic inequality stand
out more starkly. We have had to face the challenges of a globalised economy,
privatisation, growing unemployment, and an alarming increase in the gap between
rich and poor, worsened by the ravages of HIV/AIDS.
new Diakonia programmes on economic justice and HIV/AIDS (also 10 years old this
year) have helped our member churches respond creatively.
the remarkable progress made since 1994 and the overwhelming sense that the country
is moving in the right direction, there is inevitably a sense of disappointment
about promises from the elections of 1994 and 1999 not met and delivery not accomplished.
A climate of recrimination has taken hold based on continuing racism and claims
Reconciliation Project is beginning to give the churches a model for addressing
Another joy has been guiding the Community
Resource Centres to independence - both organisational and financial - over these
Despite many organisational developments our
core purpose has remained unchanged. In fact, it dates right back to Diakonia's
foundation in 1976.
We don't take over from our member
churches responsibility for social issues. We demonstrate how this responsibility
can be exercised - and then walk alongside our member churches as they take up
Our basic methodology for achieving
this purpose has been sharpened in this last decade: exposure programmes for initial
motivation; followed by linking the churches with replicable models which show
how they can be involved.
the last few years we have borrowed from overseas partners a new way of intensifying
congregational involvement - this is what we call a "social justice season"
which provides short periods of intensive involvement in a particular issue.
themes of these social justice seasons held in August in every second year saturate
the life of participating congregations: worship, bible study, Sunday school,
field visits all combining to make a powerful impact.
we begin the second decade of our new democracy, and of the Diakonia Council of
Churches, we realise the need to re-activate the prophetic voice that characterised
our early years in the 1970s and 1980s. That will help our member churches to
remain the conscience of the nation.
Director, Diakonia Council of Churches, Durban
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