How one woman is successfully fighting HIV and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
May 17th marked Tshidi Xaka’s 6th year of working with children and youth living with HIV. As a Social Auxiliary Worker at HOPE worldwide SA, and among many other things she does, she coaches groups, especially adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) who know their HIV+ status. This helps ensure that they are consistently taking their medication and helps their parents understand how to support their children.
Levels of GBV in South Africa are among the highest in the world. Tragically, the link between HIV and GBV is clear. Tshidi is determined to address both. She speaks to school facilitators & visits homes in the community to identify cases of GBV. She assesses what takes/has taken place and either refers them to appropriate services or deals with it herself. For example, in the case of sexual abuse, she finds out if there is a police case, if the child is in counselling or she will follow up with the police herself to make sure that they are proactively doing something about the case
When asked about the impact of Covid on GBV, Tshidi almost jumped out of her seat in frustration. “YOH!” she exclaimed. “Covid changed everything! Most of the GBV cases I deal with started during covid. Rape cases, mothers being beaten by boyfriends and more. Covid has made things worse. Less work frustrated men in the community who would take it out on their girlfriends, homebound parents would fight in front of their kids, and children were getting raped since they weren’t going to school. We’ve still got many cases. Covid has made a mess.”
Despite these difficult situations that Tshidi deals with and that weigh heavy on her, she happily chooses to stay working in this field. “Changing somebody’s life is amazing. I’ve seen children and youth in the toughest circumstances make it into university, I’ve seen others that didn’t want to take their HIV medication now committed to constantly taking it, and understanding that this will allow them to live long, healthy lives. It makes me feel proud. People are surprised that I don’t live in their community. When I walk through their streets people often call to me to thank me for one thing or another. I feel proud. Especially for working at HOPE worldwide. The opportunity they’ve allowed me – to go into the field – is amazing. When people call you in the streets you feel proud. I’m happy to be making a difference in people’s lives”
Below, Tshidi’s shares some examples of people’s lives she is changing.
“In Zandspruit there was a woman who was burned by water. Her husband was cheating on her and that day he brought his girlfriend home. They started fighting and when things got heated, the husband reached for the hot water and threw it on his wife. The husband was arrested for and imprisoned for about a year. We were still encouraging and supporting the mother when she told me that her husband would be returning and that she was feeling alright about it. She did however want me to be there when he returned. I agreed. When he arrived, he started by apologizing and told us that he wanted to attend counselling. I accompanied them to attend their first counselling session. The counsellor called me a while later to tell me that the couple are attending everything, and that the man has changed. In sessions, he is now the first person to speak. Every time he sees me, he still apologizes. Their 16-year-old is also attending counselling. They are well on their way to a healthy life together.
A 17-year-old was recently drugged and kidnapped after school. By God’s grace, she wasn’t trafficked. She woke up not knowing where she was, in a flat with one bed, she was the second girl put in there, then two other boys were put in after her. In her panic and asthmatic, she had an asthma attack. When she started expressing that she couldn’t breathe, the lady that kidnapped her drugged her again and dropped her somewhere in Cosmo City. She was found and spent 3 days in hospital. She is physically healthy again however because of the emotional trauma, we’re taking her to see a psychologist.
So many children, especially AGYW, are traumatized. Another girl was raped and contracted HIV. You can tell that she’s not coping well so we’re helping her get treatment and meet with a psychologist as well. I need to take these two along with three other children to go and see a psychologist this week.
Fortunately, I have an amazing relationship with the clinic. Most people have to pay to see a psychologist but because of the relationship that I’ve established with the people at the clinic over the years, I can call personal numbers from home they will even encourage me to bring my cases. I manage to arrange free sessions for them all.
As HOPE worldwide, we are so honoured to have amazing and committed staff like Tshidi involved in our programmes and are so grateful for the lives of the children, youth and parents she has been able to support. Our desire is to have more people like Tshidi join our team so we can continue to grow our reach to more people who are suffering through these tribulations. We thank @FHI360 and USAID for their tremendous support in making this happen.
If you would like to help us reach this goal, please consider making a donation at https://hopeworldwidesa.org/donate