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Sisonke Project - AVERT's Partner in South Africa

The Sisonke Project

Sisonke - mobilised senior citizens, dignity for allSisonke is an isiZulu word meaning 'we are all together'. Sisonke has been AVERT's partner in South Africa since 2004.

Where is Sisonke?

Grandmother and her grandchildren at SisonkeSisonke is in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa - one of the regions most affected by HIV and AIDS in the country.

The project is implemented by the Diocese of Grahamstown’s Department of Social Responsibility (DSR), who AVERT works closely with to sustain Sisonke's activities.

The DSR’s role is to provide the mentoring, training and guidance to local people to build their capacity to deal with the impact of the HIV epidemic. The DSR is community-based and works with 20 rural communities.

What is Sisonke's aim and vision?

Sisonke's aim is to overcome challenges and empower communities that are affected by HIV and AIDS. Their vision is a sustainable project that is led and owned by the community, for the benefit of the community.

By providing training and mentoring to certain groups and encouraging behaviour change, Sisonke works to avert new HIV infections.

Alongside this, Sisonke aims to improve the health of people living with HIV, and the lives of their carers.

How do Sisonke's activities benefit the community?

HIV and AIDS have had a devastating effect on families in this region, leaving many children without one or both parents, and grandparents playing the role of caregivers. Communities require support to understand and deal with this loss and to provide the necessary care for people living with HIV and children orphaned by AIDS.

Sisonke provides a combination of activities that benefit different members of the community.

Gogogetters network

Many elderly caregivers had become disempowered and have lost their established role in the community. Sisonke supports them to have the confidence to become more engaged in the community, by providing mentoring and training.

Members of the Gogogetters groupThis is done via the 'Gogogetters' network (gogo is the isiXhosa word for ‘grandmother’). Sisonke has helped the Gogogetters build knowledge around HIV and AIDS, develop counselling skills, acquire home-based care qualifications, and get involved in national discussions affecting the elderly. The group has a strong network and they meet regularly to plan their work, eat and sew together.

Small-scale farming training

A sustainable supply of nutritious milk and food is particularly important for people living with HIV and children orphaned by AIDS. Communities are receiving training in goat rearing, small-scale farming, and container gardening techniques (to enable community gardens to grow vegetables at home). Communities are able to pass this learning to others, increasing sustainability.

Legal support

The project also provides a drop-in paralegal support service at the DSR office. The majority of people are seeking advice about accessing social security benefits, while others talk about things that have happened to them and how to access legal services.

Small grant fund

A small grant fund is available to enable communities to generate sustainable food and livelihoods, for example, getting them started with seeds and tools for gardening. It also enables the Gogogetters to purchase items to create crafts, such as beaded jewellery and items knitted from plastic bags. The Gogos sell the products to provide an additional income.

Hear from Sisonke

Tony Schnell

Preparing vegetables grown at SisonkeTony is the Director of the DSR, and contributed an article called ' Gogo-getters become elders' for AVERT's 2012 guest writer series ' Reflections on the Epidemic'. You can also watch a video interview with Tony.

Judy Silwana

Judy is the HIV/AIDS Coordinator at the DSR, and was interviewed for Global Female Condom Day 2013 about her advocacy work in South Africa to promote and increase take-up of female condoms.

Ayabonga and Lisa

Ayabong and Lisa are young people are from the DSR's girls and boys groups. For World Development Information Day 2013, we asked them how technology improves access to HIV and AIDS information and awareness of development challenges.

"It is with great joy that we have been privileged to see in the last years how the potential has been realised. These achievements would not have been possible without the supportive partnership with AVERT. The journey is ongoing and we continue to move forward as a partnership, making a difference in thousands of lives." - Desire Nokele, Sisonke Group Developer.

Help us do more

None of this work would be possible without your support. If you would like to support Sisonke please donate to AVERT or visit our fundraising page for ideas of how to support us. Thank you!

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