Blog

By Jose Tembe

As we commemorate Sixteen Days of Activism, it is important to consider all the forms of violence that women and girls are subject to and how these forms fundamentally effect their access to education, employment and the economy. This disempowerment perpetuates gender inequality and renders women more vulnerable to other forms of gender-based violence. According to the 2014 Southern African Development Community Gender Protocol Barometer gender violence and sexual harassment in schools and in work places remains a major problem across the region.

Reporter Jose Tembe investigates the problem in Mozambique. According to those interviewed in the report, sexual harassment is a matter of serious concern in Mozambican schools, contributing to poor education performance among school girls, dropouts, early pregnancies, and a rise in HIV infection in the country. One can also tell from this story that fuelling this scourge - as it is across the globe- is a culture of silence and victim-blaming, since people are of the misguided belief that girls wearing mini-skirts "provokes" sexual harassment. Both the authorities and people working in the education sector agree that a lot remains to be done to curb this form of gender violence and to ensure women are safe and free from harassment in schools and work places.

Step-up Shoe Drive is a project meant to help alleviate some of the socio-economic hardships experienced by children affected and infected by HIV. The aim is to ensure that these children get the primary basic needs to help keep them in school so that they can get a quality education to better the chances of survival in future. This project was initiated by Dr Sinah Vlug, the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) clinical mentor and team leader of the Tshwane North-West Sub-districts roving team.

“The project was initiated in 2012 as a personal fundraising challenge. In February 2012, I challenged myself to donate R25 for wearing a different pair of shoes everyday of the month and posted the proof on my Facebook page. This made me realise how fortunate I was to have so many pairs of shoes while most of my patients (mainly children) did not even have one decent pair to use for important occasions like going to school. So the challenge was to raise enough money to buy a few pairs by winter of that year and to donate to needy children in the hope of making their lives much better, shared Dr Vlug.

Since 2012, interest in the project has grown beyond Facebook. Many people who are supporting the project donate through buying school shoes, stationary, standard school uniform, 2nd hand and new children's clothes as well as money. The money is used for buying stationary and help towards paying school fees and buying groceries for the children in need.

Since the beginning of the project, 56 pairs of school shoes, five sets of school uniform and stationary worth R3 000 have been donated. R1 200 worth of school fees has been paid for two High school pupils in Soshanguve. Two orphans who are looked after by a pensioned grandmother receive ongoing support in the form of groceries and clothes and many more families have received 2nd hand clothes to help them get by.

The recipients of the donations are mainly affected and infected by HIV and orphans. Some of the recipients are identified through interactions during medical consultations and some are identified during events held at Healthcare facilities. Recently, children living on the streets have been added to the list of recipients, those children are occasionally supplied with old clothes, shoes, toiletries and blankets.

FPD staff members have been generous with donations and well wishes.

Donations that are mostly needed include:

  • School uniforms and shoes;
  • Old stationary;
  • Conference and school bags in working condition; and
  • 2nd hand clothes.

“I usually encourage people to add things like toothpaste, sanitary pads, wash cloths, soap bars and other toiletries and stationary in the school bags if possible. Anything is welcome as other people can benefit greatly from it. Money is mostly necessary at the beginning of the year where the need for stationary is the greatest,” said Dr Vlug.

People who interested in donating can contact Dr Vlug on ms-vl@hotmail.com, and arrangements for collection points can be made if they are outside FPD offices.

The FPD SHIPS Department was established in 2012 to draw from the expertise developed by the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Fellowship Programme in successfully transitioning students from academia to the workplace.

The department has designed a number of programmes intended to hone the skills of postgraduate students, graduate students as well as school leavers to enhance their employability through workplace experience opportunities by placing them with FPD, PEPFAR partners and the public and private sector institutions.

Current Projects of the FPD SHIPS Departments include learnerships such Pharmacy Assistant and internships which include Edu Experience, Information Technology in Partnership with Nethope for Public health facilities, Information Technology in Partnership with CiTD in retail Vodacom and 8TA stores nationwide. Furthermore, the two flagship Fellowship programmes are the PEPFAR Fellowship which places newly qualified masters’ degree graduates in an AIDS service environment and Global Health for Social Change which is an overseas exchange programme.

Highlights of 2014

Since 2007 the PEPFAR Fellowship Programme has placed an average of 40 fellows at various host organisations bringing the total of fellows accommodated over the past eight years to 288.

The PEPFAR Fellowship Programme that was started in 2006 places newly qualified masters’ degree graduates in an AIDS service environment. To date (February 2014), this programme has placed 288 Fellows. The fellows have been placed in four sectors including monitoring and evaluation, medical male circumcision, care and support, and National Health Insurance and Health System support.
 
We also launched a Global Health for Social change Internship (GHSCI) in 2013 that saw three international university students being placed at a non-governmental organisation (NGO) for eight weeks getting appropriate work experience and contributing immensely to the running of their programmes. In 2014, we were able to also have a student placed with the Integrated Chronic Medicines project and mentored by Dr. David Cameron. The focus was on programmes affecting social change and public health in South Africa. Students performed field–based work and also experienced a different cultural dimension by living with local host families.
 
Through the IT Internship Programme, in partnership with NetHope Academy and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 36 Interns were placed in 2014 at various public health facilities to strengthen IT capacity. They underwent various training from DHIS to Tier Net courses. A beautiful certificate ceremony was held in October to celebrate the work that they have done.

We also managed to successfully pilot a project of placing IT Technicians in partnership with CiTD in 2013 which grew from five students to 26 in 2014. The students do an intensive 1 week Induction programme with FPD then another two weeks in the stores before they start working.

Additionally, FPD places 56 FET graduates in one year workplace experience programmes. The objective of this programme is to assist students to gain valuable work experience that is needed to complete their qualification and also to improve their chances of employment.

The Pharmacy Assistant Learnership Programme (established in 2009) initially placed 48 learners. This number increased to 318 learners in 2013 and a record 577 students in 2014, resulting in a total of 895 learners supported to date. Post learnership employment rate is at 100 percent for the Pharmacy assistant programme, with demand for qualified students at Post-Basic level exceeding the number of trained students.

For more about the Foundation for Professional Development, refer to www.fpd.co.za.

Mom connect is a National Department of Health initiative for registering a pregnancy. The programme is a cell-phone based application for easy accessibility. Pregnant women can register themselves, or be registered by either a community health worker or at a facility by a healthcare professional. After registering, the women receive regular free messages to keep them updated about the stages of their pregnancy, get reminded about routine medical follow ups that help them to better understand and use healthcare services.

In the messages, women are encouraged to undergo screening of ailments such hypertension, TB and HIV to name a few. The programme also enables the registered women to voice their opinion about the services provided to them at local healthcare facilities.

The mom connect programme was launched on 21 August 2014 at K.T Motubatse clinic by the honourable Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. The programme runs throughout the country and FPD was mandated to train and implement it in the all districts that are currently supported. It was initially piloted on 1 July 2014 in three Tshwane district clinics and rolled out in all districts as of the 1st September 2014. The initial stage was to train all Technical Assistance roving mentor teams who thereafter cascaded the training to all supported districts including Tshwane, Nkangala, Capricorn and Vhembe.  About 2 475 healthcare workers were trained on Mom connect including nurses, doctors, allied workers, counsellors, community healthcare workers, facility partners (M2M) in Tshwane and Beyond Zero and  Afri-Care  in Eastern Cape.

Since the inception of the programme, FPD has registered 11 122 women (4 658 in Tshwane, 2 807 in Nkangala, 1 304 in Capricorn and 2 353 in Vhembe). Interviews conducted with some of KT Motubatse nurses showed that after registering the women, nurses were saving a lot of time through the rest of the woman’s pregnancy.

Women were less likely to come to the clinic unnecessarily and were more empowered which enable them to ask specific questions regarding their pregnancy.

The general comment by Maternal and Child Health Lead, Cordelia Mapempeni was that, “the individual commitment in the use of Mom connect application will be a game changer for most of our poorly performing MCH indicators”. Involvement of community health care workers is key, if the programme is to be sustained.

- Foundation for Professional Development, www.foundation.co.za.
 

The Global Health for Social Change Internship programme (GHSC) is an unpaid field placement programme that offers an opportunity for students to be embedded with a local or international public health NGO – while experiencing total cultural interest by living with a host family.

This opportunity helps students gain perspective about how public health impacts social change and community development at a local level in South Africa. Because of the far-reaching effects of public health on society as a whole, this programme is looking for a wide range of students regardless of their qualification programme.

The GHSC internship programme is a unique opportunity for students who are interested in getting out of the classroom and into the field to discover how public health impacts local communities in South Africa. This year, the GHSC internship programme placed one international student at FPD head office as an intern to the Management Director for a duration of six weeks. On 21 July 2014, 20-year old Sam Mahlangu, a business management student at St. Francis College in New York, joined FPD. Sam worked on the National Health Insurance research project.

“The GHSC internship programme is an exciting, challenging and practical programme, I really enjoyed it. It was good to have Dr. Gustaaf as a mentor; he is the best teacher anyone could ask for. Coming to FPD, my goal was to get as much information as I can in business management, to have a close overview of what it takes to run a company. During my internship at FPD, I was offered to attend the Advanced Certificate in Health Management (ACHM), which is one of their business courses. We had the privilege of being lectured by Dr. Gustaaf, this proved to be his motivation to improve the South African Health industry and the society as a whole,” said Mahlangu.

“I recommend the programme to students who are serious about becoming leaders, students who are interested in applying their skills in much needed situations, to offer their knowledge to the development of a better society.”

“From what I have seen during the six weeks I spent at FPD, South African people are not selfish, they share knowledge, and they are caring and humorous. South Africa is a beautiful place which needs a better government, leadership and once you fix the leadership, everything will fall into place,” Sam concluded.

For more information about the programme, refer to www.foundation.co.za/Gghci1/about-fpd/about%20us.html.
 

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