South Africa has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, yet over half the population still lives on less that US$2 a day. The impacts of poverty are compounded by the fact that South Africa has one of the highest rates of people living with HIV and AIDS in the world.
It is within this context that the VSO programme in South Africa is focused on HIV and AIDS, with emphasis placed on the most vulnerable groups facing the pandemic. Through the placement of volunteers and other programme interventions such as training workshops and small grants, VSO is addressing the needs of women and orphans and vulnerable children as well as developing opportunities for local people to become involved in volunteering in their own communities.
Women, HIV and AIDS
The inequality of women in South Africa continues to be a major contributor to the HIV and AIDS pandemic; violence against women is endemic, with one in four women fleeing their homes as a result of domestic violence and 50,000 a year reporting rape; male infidelity is a cultural norm and women are often financially dependent on men. An additional challenge for women is that they often become carers for family members living with, or orphaned by, AIDS-related illnesses. Volunteers working in this area are focusing on activities such as business skills training for women so they can earn a living, training on sexual and reproductive healthcare and advocacy work that campaigns for the rights of women.
By 2010, the number of children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa is expected to reach 2.3 million. As a result, many children adopt the role of head of the house, caring for their younger siblings and many have to leave school to earn a living, missing out on the education that will allow them to fulfil their full potential. Others become vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Volunteers are working with a range of child welfare agencies that are ensuring children can continue to get an education, remain safe, well fed and can access healthcare and counselling services.
In South Africa, support for local volunteering is important as more individuals take on the role of carer for people with AIDS-related illnesses or for orphaned children within their community. Others are involved in activity to raise awareness of prevention and safe sex behaviour or campaigning for the rights of individuals to receive treatment. Many local agencies exist to support individuals involved in local volunteering and VSO volunteers are supporting them by improving staff skills in areas such as communication, fundraising, project planning and management and advocacy.
Get in touch with VSO South Africa at:
PO Box 11084, The Tramshed, Pretoria 0126, South Africa