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Dr Maureen Van Wyk, the executive director of HIV and AIDS networking organisation, NACOSA, recently celebrated 10 years at the helm. In the years since she joined the Cape Town-based organisation, the national AIDS response and funding environment have changed dramatically. Maureen shares her observations, challenges and learnings from a decade leading a non profit network.

Seeing the Difference

When Maureen joined NACOSA in 2005, it was a small operation with a handful of staff operating on a limited budget within the Western Cape. Under her leadership, NACOSA has grown into a major player in the HIV/AIDS and TB field (it is a principle recipient for the Global Fund and partners with USAID and PEPFAR and government), with a national network of 1,500 organisations, over 70 staff and channels resources to deliver services on the ground in all nine provinces.

"I’ve worked in government and I’ve worked at a university and I’ve chosen to work in civil society because of the dynamic nature of it, the engagement and interaction with issues,” says Maureen when asked why she has chosen to work within civil society for so long. “Unlike in government, there is not much bureaucracy and one can really make a difference and actually see the difference that one makes."

Van Wyk, who has a PhD in Social Development from the University of Pretoria, has noticed a sea change in the sector over the last ten years: "It has become more professional and more accountable because donors expect to see value for their money. In the past, many organisations were funded without clear deliverables but now the scenario has changed. Many NGOs have gone under but others have grown."

HIV Response

"The HIV response has grown tremendously. Ten years ago was just the beginning of treatment in South Africa and today we have the largest treatment programme in the world. The knowledge and information we had back then was very limited whereas today we have a fantastic multi-sectoral HIV response in the country in terms of prevention, treatment, care and human rights."

The fruits of this coordinated response are being realised with declining incidence rates, increased life expectancy and a dramatic reduction in mother-to-child HIV transmission. The burgeoning HIV response is mirrored by NACOSA’s own growth. "I think my greatest achievement is building NACOSA from a small Western Cape-focused organisation to an organisation that significantly participates and impacts on the HIV response in the country,” Van Wyk reflects. “We now work in all provinces and thousands of people at grassroots level benefit from the funding that we manage."

As Principal Recipient for the Global Fund alone, NACOSA has channelled over $60 million to community organisations across the country, achieving an A1 rating (the highest) for the duration of Phase I of the grant.

Challenges

But growth and success hasn’t come without its challenges, the biggest of which has been accessing sustainable and consistent funding from local donors. "If you look at the funding scenario right now, you will find that the HIV response is largely funded by international donors. We would have liked more funding to come from local donors and government."

Funding and resource issues are by far the biggest challenge facing NACOSA member organisations at the moment. The majority of respondents in a recent member survey reported lack of funding (63%), staffing or human resource shortages (44%), unreliable or inconsistent funding (41%) and access to information about funding and other opportunities (30%) as major challenges. Lack of technical skills was listed by 20% of respondents and staff retention, funding for salaries, lack of equipment and office space and “lack of local political will” were also reported by some members.

"I would like to see a better, more committed government response in terms of funding for civil society in South Africa,” says Van Wyk. “We work in at grassroots level, where government cannot reach, and we need a more sustainable funding streams from local government as well as provincial government.”

The current trend towards the pooling of corporate social investment funding for health and education is further eroding access to funding by small, grassroots organisations. Despite her wish for more meaningful engagement with local donors, Dr Van Wyk cautions: “It is vital that international funding also stays consistent to maintain our current HIV response."

Women in Leadership

"What is challenging women in South Africa is the old, outdated, patriarchal way of thinking about gender roles and what is expected and what is not expected of a woman,” notes Van Wyk who, having worked in the heavily gendered HIV field for ten years, also acknowledges: “Honestly, this also affects the men because gender stereotyping prevents people, both males and females, from being the person they could be and want to be."

"Women in management positions, particularly in civil society, face many challenges: fundraising, managing a diverse staff as well as running all their programs. Unlike in other institutions where you have a lot of support functions, in the NGO sector, the leader has to be multi-skilled. Luckily for me, NACOSA has more support systems in place and we’ve got fantastic staff."

An informed, skilled and committed board has also been a great support to Dr Van Wyk over the years.

Advice

As for her advice to other women – or men – in civil society leadership roles: "It is important to keep your strategic focus, even through difficult times, to see the bigger picture.”

“We have many strong examples of women leading NGOs in South Africa,” she concludes. “My advice is to remain focused, passionate and always keep your integrity. It is important to find a balance between the work that needs to be done and making sure that your staff works in an environment where they feel respected."

The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has spoken out against plans by mining companies to retrench thousands as the mining sector in South Africa grapples with a deepening slide in commodity prices and rising costs.

The commission called on the government‚ mining houses and labour to consider broadening the terms of their engagement to include establishment of a comprehensive social compact in the mining sector.

“We agree with those who argue that the current global economic environment necessitates establishment of a social compact so as to ensure competitiveness and sustainability of our mining sector that is required to create and retain jobs.

 “However‚ we believe that such a social compact should be built on the principle of wealth sharing‚ and not only on loss sharing‚” said Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission.

“A strong impression has been created that the mining houses in South Africa are opportunistically using the global resource crisis as an excuse to implement their long-held strategy of disposing of their assets‚ cutting jobs and blocking demands for a living wage.

“The mining houses have not done enough to convince the unions that this is not the case. To correct this impression and create an environment of trust‚ the mining houses should show leadership and consider opening up their financial books to the unions.”

He said the mining houses seemed to seek a social compact that emphasised the sharing of pain when commodity prices fall. “We need a social compact that also emphasises sharing of accumulated wealth with workers when the commodity prices rise.

“This should include the establishment of a Worker Sustainability Wage Fund during the years of super-profits to ensure adequate provision for workers when the commodity prices fall.”
The commission also believed that the principles of putting people before profit and the common good should form the basis of the social compact.

“In the midst of low commodity prices we are told by some mining houses that mining is a business‚ and not a charity. We are told that in lean times mining is essentially about controlling costs‚ including labour costs‚ and disinvesting in loss-making assets so as to achieve better returns for shareholders as suppliers of capital.

“We would like to remind the industry that during these lean times mining should also be about people‚ especially the livelihoods of workers who helped the mining companies to make huge returns for shareholders during the years of supe

Years ago in many South African remote villages, Yellow pages was the most essential tool used for connecting people to businesses, product and services by providing all the relevant information about them. Today we are living in the digital age where the access of information is made easy due to the excessive use of technology. FPD Compass in partnership with into4africa produced a health and social services directories that has been used in South Africa since 2007. In 2013/14 we were able to cross borders and partner with over 2000 sites across the SADC region, (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) for referral purposes both in public and private facilities.

North Star Alliance and FPD Compass worked together in creating an online directory called Mesedi. ME-SE-DI stands for Medical Services Directory which is an online tool that assists users in finding their nearest health care facility based on their location and required services.

Users can access the website at mesedi.org from their mobile device or computer (preferably ensuring that the GPS functionality is enabled), the site will access the location of the user and place them on a map and a list of services will also be provided, alternatively the user can search for the services they require. Once this is done, the website will pull up a list of health facilities/services that are available, ranked from closest geographical proximity to furthest. The user can click/scroll to any of the services on the list or on the map. Once selected, the facility details will appear which include details of services offered, operating hours, phone numbers and addresses. It also has a click-to-call button and a get-directions button which provides accurate navigation from where the user is to the facility.

This is the first cross border initiative of its kind and by far the most well supported database in comparison to any other online directory in the region.

For more information refer to www.mesedi.org

There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children - Nelson Mandela

We invite you to become a Member of Johannesburg Child Welfare Society (JCWS), a leading child-protection NPO in the country.

The negative effects of abuse on children are monumental. Exposure to aggression and violence socialises children into lifestyles that perpetuate violence in society. Violence also results in lowered social cohesion and impacts on the country’s social and economic development. Given this, the child-protection services rendered by JCWS become an important lifeline to not only the children we assist but impacts the country’s social cohesion on a macro-level.

Your active engagement and support will enable us be able to leave a lasting footprint by creating a safety net for the country’s most vulnerable citizens – children.

Membership of JCWS is voluntary and entitles the member to vote for the Board of Management, or to be voted onto the Board of Management if the member is willing.

An annual membership fee, which presently is R114.00 is payable by 15 August each year.

Please click here to download the form  and use our secure online payment system or send proof of payment and return form to  marketing@jhbchildwelfare.org.za

Jo’burg Child Welfare Banking Details
Bank: Standard Bank of S.A. Limited
Account Name: Johannesburg Child Welfare Society
Branch: Library Gardens
Branch Code: 001005
Account No: 000790060
 

TechSoup Global, Open Institute and Making All Voices Count (MAVC) will host Buntwani 2015 from 25-26 August 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The theme of the event is "The Next Step in Innovation for Good Governance:  Moving the dialogue forward from potential to impact".

Buntwani 2015 is a global gathering of actors from the civil society, technology, donor, research, government and policy sectors focusing on the intersection of governance and innovation. We hope to provide a platform for reflection, analysis and candid dialogue on the impact of technology-supported initiatives aimed at empowering citizens to voice their concerns and demands, and improving governments' responsiveness and accountability to their citizens.
 
In advance of the event, the Buntwani team is organising two one-hour tweet chats so that both confirmed participants and other stakeholders have an opportunity to highlight specific issues and experiences relevant to the theme and focus of the event. A third tweet chat will be held after the event to reflect on the outcomes of Buntwani 2015.
 
# Wednesday, 12 August 2015, 15h00 CAT / 16h00 EAT / 18h30 IST / 09h00 EDT
= Topic: "Where do we stand?: the role of technology and innovation in the governance sector"
 
# Wednesday, 19 August 2015, 15h00 CAT / 16h00 EAT / 18h30 IST / 09h00 EDT
= Topic: "Governance and technology: scaling, sustainability and what comes next?"
 
# Wednesday, 2 September 2015, 15h00 CAT / 16h00 EAT / 18h30 IST / 09h00 EDT
= Topic: "Buntwani 2015 - what have we learned?"
 
The #hashtags to be used are #Buntwani and #BuntwaniChat.
 
Please share this information in your networks and encourage others to join the conversations.
 
For more about the Buntwani team, refer to http://www.buntwani.org

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