CHIVA South Africa is proud to be empowering health workers as first responders to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

As we mark the start of 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), CHIVA South Africa raises its voice to join in the call to make it “Everyone’s Business to End Violence Against Women and Children”.

The health sector plays an important role in supporting survivors of SGBV, but currently scant attention is paid to this due in large part to the ‘social silence’[1] surrounding SGBV. We know that health workers commonly experience discomfort when dealing with these issues and their dual role as caregiver and community member often hinders their ability to provide appropriate care and support. Health workers often share a cultural understanding of ‘normalised violence’ with their communities and experience similar prevalence of violence themselves, especially in rural communities. Barriers also include a lack of access to systems to support referrals – once again this is especially challenging in rural communities where resources are so thinly stretched.

From a public health perspective, the relationship between SGBV and HIV infection – especially in young women – is a major challenge that needs to be urgently addressed. Research shows that women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who have not[2]. SGBV, alarmingly now a pandemic in South Africa, has been identified as a significant driver of HIV infections in women[3].

CHIVA South Africa’s commitment to strengthen the health system and build the skills and capacity of rural health workers acknowledges that managing and preventing SGBV violence requires a multi-sectorial approach and that the link between SGBV and HIV infection cannot be ignored. Therefore, we have incorporated SGBV teaching and mentorship as an important component of our work. Our interventions aim to empower health workers with the knowledge and skills they need to identify signs of abuse, provide appropriate care, support referrals and most importantly manage survivors of SGBV with dignity, respect and appropriate counselling and care.  By promoting the integration of community structures to leverage engagement from community leaders and members of civil society, we believe that communities  will be empowered to address the unacceptable rates of violence perpetrated against women and children in their communities and  work together to identify solutions to end violence against women and children.

Together we can make a difference to support the 2020 UNiTE Campaign Theme:

“Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect”

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[1] Heise et al

[2] UNAIDS, Women, Girls and HIV Fact Sheet

[3] Geneva: UNAIDS, 2010

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