Kimberly Vrudny

Wola Nani

In HIV/AIDS, Non-profits / NGOs, South Africa, Violence Against Women on August 10, 2010 at 1:45 am

Wola Nani is a Xhosa phrase, meaning “through our embrace, we develop one another.” Founded by South African activist Gary Lamont in 1994, Wola Nani’s mission is, simply put, “to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS.” Without denying services to anyone, Wola Nani has focused on bringing relief to the communities hardest hit by HIV, recognizing that women have been disproportionately infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The organization’s concern for the welfare of women is evident in its areas of focus which fall broadly into three categories: client support; education and awareness; and skills development.

Client Support:

Client support is a fundamental aspect of the work of Wola Nani. Through its family and community support center in Khayelitsha, its Cape Town drop-in center, and non-medical voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) site in Guguletu, Wola Nani provides a full spectrum of services related to an HIV-positive diagnosis. By counseling those testing positive, encouraging involvement in Wola Nani’s support groups, providing home-based care and health monitoring, operating an emergency food relief service, giving clients referrals to the services of other NGOs, conducting workshops about how to access government grants, medical services, and legal services, and caring for vulnerable children by running child daycare facilities, assisting in the placement of orphaned children, and monitoring the vulnerability of children in the communities served, Wola Nani’s impact in the lives of those living positively with HIV and AIDS is thorough.

Education and Awareness:

Having been created in the very year of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration to the new South African presidency, and enduring the years of Thabo Mbeki’s denialism, Wola Nani places great emphasis on educating those testing positive about the virus and how to treat it, and on raising awareness about HIV and AIDS in order to foster greater support for those infected with and affected by the virus in the wider community. Wola Nani conducts the famous “Red Ribbon Campaign” each year, to keep HIV and AIDS awareness alive in the public square. As its own website proclaims,

Wola Nani has coordinated and run this major, high profile awareness and fundraising event since 1994. As part of the campaign, Wola Nani has lit up Table Mountain red as the world’s greatest living memorial to AIDS, waved Red Ribbon flags from a procession of Harley-Davidsons and fired a 6 cannon salute from Signal Hill in Cape Town. Activities vary from year to year but may include wrapping a prominent building in Cape Town with a giant red ribbon, distributing red ribbon and collection boxes in the streets, local shops, and restaurants, and live outdoor broadcasts with popular local radio stations. The Red Ribbon Campaign has become an event which allows people to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, a time when the whole City wears a red ribbon and sends a message to the millions of South Africans living with the virus that they are not alone and the people of the nation support them.

In addition, Wola Nani runs educational programming in the communities where people are most vulnerable to an infection to promote safer sex and prevention of transmission. For those who have become infected, Wola Nani offers seminars and workshops so that people understand the medical condition and their treatment options (including ARV treatment literacy), as well as rights and entitlements persons testing postive have under the law.

Skills Development:

Wola Nani has also been entrepreneurial in spirit, wishing to provide women with a practical means to support themselves financially. Income generation rapidly was identified as an urgent need for women testing positive with HIV. Soon, Wola Nani branched into sales of crafts, featuring products ranging from papier maché bowls and picture frames, as well as beaded bangles and AIDS ribbons. These products are marketed and sold overseas as well as at shops nationwide. When I visited Wola Nani’s administrative center in the Observatory of Cape Town, I was shown the storage room filled with craft supplies, as well as the bustling office where bowls and light bulbs were being shipped to European retailers. At present, about sixty craftswomen are employed by Wola Nani, enabling them to earn a regular and sustainable income. These women report that Wola Nani has provided them with a means by which to feed their families, send their children to school, and live positively.

Below is a list that gives a sense of how dollars will be used by the administrators of Wola Nani:

$25 will buy Home Health Kits for five clients;
$50 will enable ten child clients to receive supplemental, wholesome meals twice a week for a month;
$200 will provide HIV diagnostic testing procedures for 50 individuals;
$500 can fund the purchase of materials needed by a craft maker to create 1,000 papier maché bowls for sale and income generation;
$2,000 will allow 10 clients to be trained as certified home caregivers;
$5,000 would enable Wola Nani to hire 2 HIV counselors on a part-time basis for one year.

More information about each of Wola Nani’s projects is available on its website, which also features stories about the women whose lives have been greatly impacted by the organization’s vision. Please support their work, if you are able.

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