Women-Only Ride Service
In South Africa, many stories have emerged from women experiencing sexual assault while being in a taxi. Reports determined that there were more than 53,000 sexual assaults in March 2020, though the number might be far higher according to women’s rights groups. Luckily, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service to provide women safe transit in South Africa.

Women-Only Ride Service

With technology constantly progressing, safer transportation for women has become very vital. As recently as January 2021, Bolt has launched a women-only ride service. This service allows women passengers to request female drivers only; this also prohibits male drivers from viewing this request. This is possible through the registration process for drivers with Bolt; verifying if they are female or male, and their identity, makes it possible that only female drivers can access the Bolt Women Only category.

In November 2020, Bolt’s women-only ride service entered a pilot phase in East London and Rustenburg. Made possible through Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola, an app-integrated SOS emergency button protects drivers and passengers. The functions this button offers enables the passengers and drivers to private armed response teams, private emergency medical services and roadside assistance if they are involved in any medical or security emergency while on a Bolt ride.

Bolt App

Bolt is a transportation app that women can use to request affordable and fast conveyance. Reviews for the app are mostly positive, and the new service is now available in various locations, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Polokwane, Thohoyandou, Mbombela and Emalahleni.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolt had taken into consideration the dwindling economic activity and rising poverty. To benefit those with low income, bolt introduced a new low-cost category called “Bolt Go” for its South African customers. The new affordable service trialed successfully in the Eastern Cape cities of East London and Port Elizabeth. In South Africa, the 35 cities and towns where Bolt is active started utilizing the service.

Increased Safety for Women

The woman-only ride service was a long time coming, but highly necessary. Just like anywhere else, women are in danger of being targets for assault or harassment, including in transit environments. This new service emerged out of a series of complaints and petitions from users who have experienced sexual harassment from male drivers. Both women and e-hailing drivers have the right to feel safe and protected while driving around and working. In sub-Saharan Africa, unsuitable transportation—”transport poverty”—inordinately impacts women and young girls due to abuse and sexual assault.

Less than 5% of female drivers using Bolt are women. In fact, around 64% of women have mentioned “security” as the reason that they are not lining up to be e-hailing drivers. The woman-only ride service will exclusively be available during 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., though the small number of female drivers might impact the waiting time for potential passengers. Even though the lack of female drivers might bring a setback, the woman-only ride service is much more beneficial if it comes out sooner rather than later.

Thomas Williams
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Land Reform in South Africa
White South Africans accounted for less than 10% of the population after the apartheid in South Africa ended in 1994. However, 90% of white South Africans owned the land. In addition, about 72% of white South Africans owned farmland in 2017. Meanwhile, black South Africans owned only 4% of land and Indian South Africans owned about 5%. As such, poverty and land reform in South Africa remain large issues.

The African National Congress (ANC) assisted the South African government in initiating land reform efforts to further digress from historical injustices, achieve equitable land distribution and stimulate economic development. However, land reform in South Africa has yet to significantly benefit the victims of land dispossession and marginalization.

Assistant Professor of African Studies in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver Dr. Singumbe Muyeba told The Borgen Project that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world in terms of economic racial disparity. Muyeba’s passion to eradicate urban poverty in Africa has guided his research in poverty and land reform in South Africa.

The Land Reform Process

The Natives Land Act inaugurated the apartheid in South Africa in 1913. This left nearly 70% of black South Africans unable to purchase or occupy the land. Furthermore, this legislative order dispossessed and forcibly removed thousands of black families from their land. Black people had to go to impoverished areas throughout the country. Furthermore, they were unable to financially support their families. Moreover, the Act initiated the ongoing social and economic inequalities that prevail today.

The South African government initiated The Land Reform Process to deviate from the oppressive regime of the apartheid. In addition, it aimed to reinstate fundamental civil rights for all. This process involved:

  1. Restoring land to, or financially rectifying, titled landowners who were forcibly removed during the apartheid.
  2. Enabling Africans to collectively buy farms with government aid.
  3. Protecting the rights to own and control land.

South Africa recognized that land justice is crucial when addressing poverty, livelihood security and racial discrimination. Thus, it implemented land reform. However, the new land titling procedures and the authority of local land-owning elites in the system were obscure. It blurred the lines of the true beneficiaries. About 148 land reform programs in South Africa carried out fraudulent ventures between 2011 and 2017. Moreover, this highlighted political corruption as a contributor to the lack of land reform benefits.

Property Rights and Poverty

Land reform in South Africa initially relied on the disposition of white land-owners selling their land. The land redistributed to black farmers has been meager parcels with insignificant economic benefits. Additionally, black farmers in the repossession of land often lack farming knowledge, practical skills, government-supported financial aid and suitable equipment that would enable profit. The Economist proposed that up to 90% of redistributed farms were not profitable in 2015. One can attribute this to deficient funding, development training and resource allocation. In addition, South Africans who choose restitution in cash compensation instead of land often receive insufficient amounts. This conduces poverty and constrains black farmers’ economic development.

Problems with the Movement

Muyeba explains how South Africans’ perception and lack of trust in their institutions, harbored from the apartheid’s colonialist regime, contribute to the barriers of achieving economic security and escaping poverty. He said, “If the poor who possess urban land rights perceive that they cannot rely on the effectiveness of institutions such as the rule of law, political leadership, public services and economic institutions, their property will sit idle as an economic resource. The poor will not use their land and housing in their efforts to build wealth and get out of poverty.” Although urban property rights strengthen employment opportunities, the potential monetary burdens can lead to property loss.

Despite the general consensus that property rights economically advantage low-income individuals, the structural barriers of the reform system leave impoverished South Africans challenged. Thus, they are unable to achieve economic security and elude poverty. Muyeba’s research findings indicate that “property rights for the urban poor empower the poor with ownership, the security of tenure, instill a sense of freedom and of belonging to a community and increase self-esteem among owners.” This empowerment can improve health and play an instrumental part in decreasing the effects of poverty.

Expropriation Bill

South Africa became a constitutionally democratic country in February 1997. During this transformation, the Expropriation Act, which determined how the government handled previously privately owned land for public uses, mandated the government pay compensation that best served the public. It declared three attempts unconstitutional in October 2020. As a result, the Expropriation Bill proposed that “just and equitable” compensation will go to the expropriation of property for public use or interest. Furthermore, expropriation without compensation can receive justification in court depending on the acquisition, quality, use and value of the owner’s land.

South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza states that the Bill aims to correct the historic injustices, reinstate land rights, strengthen long-term food security and achieve equitable land rights. Many are concerned that the negative effects of expropriation could perpetuate injustices for communities. Additionally, land expropriation without compensation threatens the agricultural sector’s productivity and employment opportunities. Moreover, this will increase poverty rates. Muyeba says that the expropriation of farmland in South Africa will inevitably cause regional and international economic impairments. This is due to South Africa’s significant role in agricultural exports throughout the continent.

Hope for the Future

Land reform in South Africa plays a crucial role in achieving equitable land distribution and reducing poverty. Pre-existing victims must be the beneficiaries of the land reform movement. Muyeba believes that policy-makers should modify land reform programs according to previous national attempt outcomes while being mindful of South Africa’s vulnerable political and economic state.

Furthermore, his research indicates that securing property rights in South Africa does not inherently produce conventional economic benefits for impoverished populations. Instead, impoverished South Africans’ sense of empowerment from land ownership yielding greater economic benefits should be taken into account when confronting structural barriers. Equitable land distribution in South Africa is complex. However, accountable and honest corruption-free government legislative frameworks can help achieve it.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

South African Orphans
In 2005, Michelle Potter traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, as a volunteer football coach. Some of her players on the team were homeless and resorted to begging on the streets to get by. Having left home at age 16, Potter was able to relate to the loneliness of entering adulthood without familial support and she wanted to help. In 2008, SAYes Transition Mentoring began. SAYes is a Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program that assists young South Africans, either living in or recently out of children’s homes, who are on the precipice of life on their own.

What SAYes Transition Mentoring Does

Governmental assistance for young South Africans living in children’s homes ends at age 18 and many do not have anywhere to go. SAYes Transition Mentoring pairs each participant with a highly trained mentor to offer support during this vulnerable transition period. Participants range from 14-25 years of age, giving priority to older youth, as they are the ones who are soon leaving or have already left residential care. Mentors work one-to-one with mentees for at least an hour a week during the nine-month program. The role of a mentor is to be a stable and non-judgmental ally. In many cases, this is the first positive relationship participants will have with an adult.

The Situation in South Africa

In 2019, South Africa ranked as the most economically unequal country in the world. This essentially means that the economy does not benefit all its people. In fact, the richest 20% of South Africans have control over almost 70% of the country’s resources.

SAYes is a program that emerged for those who are not fortunate enough to be in that top 20%. Many participants have had to leave their homes as a last resort because of abusive family situations. Some suffer from neglect, addiction, prostitution or an array of other adversities.

How SAYes Transition Mentoring Works

SAYes TIL care is specific to each participant depending on their age and developmental needs. The mentor offers guidance in education, housing, employment, personal development and community reintegration. One mentor, Mashudu Matshili, described the importance of mentorship with an old African saying: “If you want to know directions to a place, you need to ask those that have already reached the destination.”

The first few weeks, they get to know each other and find common ground. If the mentee is interested in a specific career field, the mentor might help facilitate an internship or job-shadowing opportunity. The mentor is a friend first, and then a guide to building the skills to live responsibly and independently.

Speaking fondly of his mentor, participant Destino Nzonzidi said, “I always say, I can forget away my pains, but not forget Tony for what he has done.” Many of the SAYes participants continue their relationship with their mentors long beyond the nine-month program and consider them family. More often than not, charities focus on young kids, not young adults. The benefit of SAYes Youth Mentoring has been huge and the proof in the success stories. SAYes Transition Mentoring serves over 100 young South Africans a year.

– Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Kwanisa FoundationWhile COVID-19 casts a new set of challenges for poverty in South Africa, two extraordinary women are showing the power that a grassroots foundation has in the fight against poverty. COVID-19 has had disastrous effects on poverty in South Africa, leaving many South Africans unemployed and unable to secure basic needs such as food and clean water. The Kwanisa Foundation aims to assist South Africans in need.

COVID-19 in South Africa

Surprisingly, in an analysis done by Global Food Security, food security issues caused by COVID-19 in South Africa are not related to supply, logistics or distribution. Food insecurity is due to a collapse in earnings.

A recent study conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), concluded that 34% of households are expected to fall out of middle-class status and into the vulnerability of poverty. The same study predicts that the South African economy will contract anywhere from 5-8% in 2020. Furthermore, the economy will likely recovery slowly through 2024.

The adverse health effects of COVID-19 and economic disruptions put South Africa’s food security in jeopardy. Shocks in the system due to COVID-19 have resulted in a complete stop of household income for many families, income that is vital for purchasing food.

Although the South African government has provided relief funds, it has not been enough to curb the effects of the pandemic. With the loss of income resulting in food insecurity, social protections and grassroots efforts are vital to providing short-term relief.

The Kwanisa Foundation

Providing much-needed short-term relief is exactly what Kopano Tsengiwe and Nwabisa Mpotulo, both from Johannesburg, set out to do by founding the Kwanisa Foundation. Starting in March 2020 when the nation went into lockdown, the Kwanisa Foundation has been providing food to families in need.

Delivering food packages around their community, consisting of dry and canned goods and even hygiene products such as toothpaste, the Kwanisa foundation has empowered those in the community to help in any way they can.

By developing these grassroots programs that draw in help from those who can give it, the Kwanisa Foundation has put an increased emphasis on outreach directed toward the youth of South Africa.

The goal is to build a network of individuals who can pool together resources and skills in order to develop and improve local communities.

The co-founders first met at the University of Pretoria and both worked at the nonprofit called Blue Palm. In an attempt to continue their philanthropic efforts, the two co-founded the Kwanisa Foundation whose mission is to empower disadvantaged youth to become advocates for change within and outside of their communities.

Other Initiatives

The Kwanisa Foundation’s efforts do not stop at food drives. Looking to empower the youth of South Africa and address unemployment, skills development workshops target students in underprivileged schools. These workshops include university readiness training and career counseling to help prepare the youth for their futures ahead.

Another youth-driven project is the Light in a Home Mission. This project looks to improve the living conditions and access to resources for the 2.3 million orphaned children currently living in South Africa. Orphans receive basic necessities and administrative help such as applications for grants and tertiary institutions.

Other community-driven projects championed by the Kwanisa Foundation include sanitary pads and toiletry drives, school shoes and stationary drives as well as blanket drives.

Instead of just hoping for change, Tsengiwe and Mpotulo are stepping up and creating change with a grassroots effort to help end poverty in South Africa.

Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in South Africa
Since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) first evolved into the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the early 1980s, the virus has rapidly spread to every corner of the globe. It has infected over 65 million people worldwide. With no cure in sight, over 25 million victims have perished at the hands of the virus to date. HIV/AIDS predominantly plagues regions in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Though cases have dropped since the epidemic heights of the 1990s, this disease continues to afflict 38 million people today and remains a leading cause of death. Here is a summary of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infiltrates and takes over the cells that protect against infections. As the body’s ability to fight viruses disappears, HIV makes the individual extremely vulnerable to additional infections or diseases. Spread through the transmission of bodily fluids, transmission most commonly occurs during the communal use of drug injection syringes and unprotected sexual activity. When left untreated, HIV can devolve into a lifetime condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). No cure exists for HIV or AIDS, but there are preventative measures that an individual can take, as well as treatment, drugs and therapy.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

In 1982, South Africa was battling the apartheid that had dominated its governance for decades. This landmark transformation created tumultuous political strife that distracted national attention away from the HIV virus that was silently taking root in the gay and impoverished black communities. With drastic changes occurring in the South African government, insufficient measures failed to halt the initial handful of HIV infections from growing by 60% by 1995.

By the time that South African President Nelson Mandela first spoke about the virus, the epidemic had escalated into a public health crisis. South America became the most infected country in the world. Virus deniers and negligent governing officials let the situation further devolve throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It was not until 2008 and a change in administrations that South Africa treated HIV/AIDS as a public health threat. The new government implemented a plan to distribute medicines and drugs, the largest step South Africa had taken since the virus outbreak 30 years prior.

Currently, efforts to fight HIV/AIDS face infrastructural and monetary difficulties. Public health resources have become sparse as the South African currency lost value. Consequently, HIV/AIDS therapy and antiretroviral treatment declined even while virus rates continue to rise.

In 2019, HIV/AIDS infected an estimated 7.7 million South Africans. That totals 20.4% of the population, with new cases occurring daily. Additionally, more than 72,000 HIV/AIDS-related deaths have occurred in South Africa. Over 70% of South African adults and 41% of minors undergo antiretroviral treatment.

Preventing the Spread

The HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues to plague South Africa may find its match in antiretroviral treatment (ART). This preventative measure is highly popular since the South African government progressed the ART program since the early 2000s. UNAID reported that 70% of South Africans living with HIV/AIDS received ART treatment in 2019, up by 50% since 2010. If an individual tests positive for HIV, they can receive ART to forestall or fully prevent the further devolution of HIV symptoms and the onset of AIDS. South Africans have invested themselves in taking advantage of the free testing. A guaranteed treatment for those testing positive increases the number of South Africans willing to obtain testing.

ART therapy particularly helps mothers with HIV by curbing mother-to-child transmission. This preventative measure has resulted in a strengthening of both mother and child health, and a decrease in birthing mortality and childhood HIV/AIDS infection.

While HIV/AIDS in South Africa remains a massive issue, one can find hope in new and evolving preventative measures. ART treatment offers an avenue to health for many infected individuals. It prevents further spread, curbs symptoms and can make healthy populations resistant to the virus. With South Africa expanding its diagnostic and treatment capabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS may live longer and healthier lives.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in South Africa
South Africa is a cultural hub of various ethnicities, races and languages and has kept this reputation despite the colonization of the country. With a plethora of issues regarding race and politics, the country also has an intense trafficking scene, presenting challenges for men, women and children alike. Native South Africans make up the largest number of victims within the country, mostly coming from the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein. Moreover, traffickers tend to target vulnerable people in poor, rural and urban areas. Here is some information about human trafficking in South Africa and what efforts some are taking to fight it.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in South Africa

  1. Forced Labor: The International Labour Organisation Convention No. 29 of 1960 defines forced labor as “All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered him/her voluntarily.” South African law enforcement agencies increased efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers. In these investigations, authorities arrested seven Chinese nationals, four men and three women for alleged forced labor of 91 Malawians, 37 of whom were children. Traffickers exploited a total of 308 victims through forced labor.
  2. Modern-day Slavery: Slavery, according to the Sexual Offences Amendment Act No. 32 of 2007, means “reducing a person by any means to a state of submitting to the control of another person, as if that other person were the owner of that person.” Modern slavery is not dissimilar to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, as traffickers are currently and continuously shipping thousands of women and girls in South Africa into brothels every year. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act defines trafficking in terms very similar to the African Slave Trade; in simple terms, it is the harboring of people by threat, force or deception to gain control over another person and using them for exploitation.
  3. Local Victims: Nigerian cartels dominate sex trafficking in several provinces. In 2014, Western Cape reported an increased number of Nigerian sex trafficking victims, many of them coerced through voodoo rituals. Traffickers often send South African women to Europe and Asia, where some end up having to work in prostitution, domestic service or drug smuggling. Law enforcement reported that ongoing sex trafficking victims end up in positions of loyalty and submission via forced drug use, which makes rescuing victims all the more difficult. Recently, law enforcement officials across five of South Africa’s provinces coordinated and executed raids on more than a dozen brothels, as well as factories and syndicates that created and distributed unconsented pornography.
  4. Non-African Victims: Many Chinese traffickers operate in South Africa, specifically targeting Asian men and women. Officials acknowledge the growth of Chinese victims, but Thai women remain the largest foreign victim group – that is, as far as officials are aware of. Women and girls from Brazil, Eastern Europe and East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and neighboring African countries have all experienced kidnapping and placement in South Africa’s trafficking ring. LGBT persons both foreign and native are the main target in sex trafficking. Young men and boys often experience coercion into trafficking rings, especially those from neighboring countries. Authorities even arrest and deport some in forced labor as illegal immigrants. Government and NGOs found a growth in captors forcing Pakistanis and Bangladeshis into bonded labor.
  5. Women: Traffickers capitalize on South Africa’s poverty epidemic and unemployment, and poverty strips its victims of their dignity. Women who undergo trafficking come from different backgrounds of poverty and many of them are immigrants. The same applies to internal migrants. Since most of these poor women who enter South Africa are in search of economic opportunities, they do so often without formal immigration papers; such women often turn to domestic work. They work long hours every day of the week, their salaries often lower than the mandated accepted salary for domestic workers. Sometimes, employers take the identification they might have entered South Africa with for “safekeeping,” though it is really about holding these women hostage. This makes it difficult for them to leave if they are not happy with their employer’s conditions. For black women, the marginalization doubles due to their race and gender. White South Africans make up 8% of South Africa’s population yet own 87% of all farmland, according to the country’s government through AFP and the Washington Post. Since most are not living in poverty, they are less vulnerable.

The South African Government and A21

The South African government convicted three law enforcement efforts and initiated the prosecution of 19 sex traffickers back in 2014. Meanwhile, the Department of Social Development oversees victim shelters, which assisted 41 victims. However, a serious lack of capacity and widespread corruption among the police force makes anti-trafficking efforts harder. Though when the government fails, South African NGOs such as A21 provide helpful solutions to human trafficking in South Africa by raising awareness, providing education and acting as problem solvers in place of corrupted police.

According to A21, trafficking victims are often unable to speak the local language, appear to be trapped in their job or residence, may have bruises and other signs of physical abuse or do not have identification documents. Brothels, farms, factories and shebeens are common places captors keep victims. A21 provides the opportunity to contact it if a person suspects that human trafficking might be taking place, offering the chance to save lives.

– Marcella Teresi
Photo: Flickr

Livestock WealthPoverty in South Africa has historically been linked with the institution of the racial apartheid regime. The national government began to pass segregationist policies in 1948, with racial discrimination policies only officially dismantling in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela stepped into power. Livestock Wealth is a company that introduced South Africa to “crowdfarming” as a means of supporting farmers and alleviating poverty in the country.

Apartheid and Poverty

Under the apartheid regime, the minority-white government passed policies aimed at keeping black South Africans, who made up a majority of the population, from having any meaningful participation in the economy. This left millions trapped in cycles of poverty and the residual effects of such discriminatory policies are still being contended with, in the effort to reduce poverty today.

Apartheid laws confined poor South Africans to rural regions and made the migration to urban areas difficult. The lack of opportunities and social mobility in rural areas made overcoming poverty a challenging task. The legacy of this limited mobility is still present today. South African provinces in rural areas have more households in chronic poverty compared to urban provinces. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the upper-bound poverty line (UPBL), whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. In order to reduce poverty, it is most important that rural communities receive support and investment.

Livestock Wealth

Livestock Wealth is a startup founded in 2015 by Ntuthuko Shezi which aims to provide investment for farmers in South Africa’s rural areas. Livestock Wealth allows investors from anywhere in the world to effectively purchase from South African farmers four different livestock and crop options: a free-range ox, a pregnant cow, a connected garden or a macadamia-nut tree. When the cows or the crops are sold, both the farmer and the investor receive a share of the profit.

The investment provides liquidity to farmers for whom there is limited availability of short-term funds. Livestock Wealth is currently a credit provider with South Africa’s National Credit Regulator and is registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council.

Livestock Wealth currently has 58 partner farmers all across the country and all cows are hormone-free and grass-fed. In recent years, its business has expanded to also provide meat for investors who join the “Farmers Club.” There are currently more than 2,800 investors with Livestock Wealth and more than $4 million has been invested.

Alleviating Poverty in South Africa

Livestock Wealth is a representation of an initiative that has great potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa. South Africa’s rural populations have a long history of exclusion from the economy and have struggled to reduce poverty for decades. Livestock Wealth provides cash investments for farmers and creates a market in which they can reliably trade. By doing so, the firm exemplifies an innovation within the South African economy, one which is helping to alleviate poverty and can inspire others to do the same.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in South Africa
South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDS epidemic with 7.5 million people currently living with the virus. One of the main reasons why it has not been contained is a lack of testing. Less than 25% of the population has been tested in South Africa, where it is estimated that around 13% of people have AIDS. The lack of testing is caused by the negative stigma which still surrounds the virus, as well as the lack of access to reasonable testing and treatment methods. Now, cell phones are providing a new way for people with AIDS in South Africa to get tested and seek treatment. This is a massive step that may save millions of lives in the future.

Project Masiluleke

Project Masiluleke is an NGO providing these essential services in South Africa. It has developed multiple different steps to reduce the number of those affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. One of the main services is a program called SocialTxt which encourages people to get tested as well as refers them to medical guidance via text message. Texting is a valuable mode of communication because it is able to reach approximately 90% of the South African population. Since the implementation of this project, the number of daily calls to the National AIDS Helpline has tripled. Being able to easily access HIV/AIDS support services via cell phone has encouraged more and more people to seek help.

However, many South Africans still refuse to get tested because there is such a negative stigma around HIV/AIDS. This is a large part of why cases have continued to spread in South Africa. To help overcome this barrier, Project Masiluleke also provides users with self-testing kits. This way, people sign up for a kit via text message and then are able to take the test in total privacy. This method lets people feel more secure during the entire process and has encouraged many more people to get tested and seek treatment.

Cell-Life

Cell-Life is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa that seeks to help those affected by HIV by developing new technologies. They have developed several different texting services that send daily medication reminders. This organization also focuses on treatment literacy, which seeks to make people more aware of the resources they have to combat the virus. One of the most important things in the fight against AIDS is making sure people know they have support structures and can communicate with providers as well as other members of their community.

Moving Forward

Project Masiluleke and Cell-Life are great examples of new technologies bringing solutions to ongoing issues. NGOs taking advantage of widespread cell phone use to tackle the AIDS epidemic in South Africa are setting an example for other organizations and countries. Moving forward, these organizations and others must continue to use new technologies to increase access to resources and testing. Hopefully, with the help of cell phones, the spread of AIDS in South Africa will slow.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Influence of Poverty on Mental Health in South Africa
The most recent report evaluating the living conditions of men, women and children in South Africa in 2015 shows the disproportionate influence of poverty on female-led households. According to the Living Conditions Survey (LCS), approximately half of the adult population in South Africa were living below the poverty line. Broken down, 52% of women and 46% of men were experiencing poverty. Most notably, the poverty gap is larger for female-led households than male-led households. This is affecting adults and children facing poverty. Only 25.7% of children in poor areas have access to a safe place to play. This is crucial to healthy development for the children. There is a correlation between poverty and mental health in South Africa.

The Mental Health Crisis

In South Africa, mental health does not receive any sort of priority status, and in rural communities, there is no support for those struggling with mental health disorders. A study on South African health reported that at least 15% of people suffer from anxiety disorders. Additionally, 10% are suffering from depression and bipolar disorders. Unfortunately, the systems in place to support those struggling with these disorders only aid about a quarter of them. This is mostly due to the lack of funding for mental health. Consequently, this mental health crisis and lack of support can also be attributed to the stigma surrounding mental disorders, proximity to services, inequality and poverty. Poverty and mental health in South Africa are directly correlated, however, it is not a priority for health services.

Organizations Supporting Mental Health

The Mental Health and Poverty Project (MHaPP) at the University of Cape Town is a project working to build policies to break the stigma of mental health. It also provides access and support to even the poorest communities, who often face the most extreme influences of mental health disorders. The MHaPP reports that 53% of the 23 public mental hospitals provide 72-hour assessments of patients with psychiatric emergencies. However, the care is far from adequate as many suicidal patients wait multiple hours for examination.

One of the most important findings from MHaPP was that attitude and understanding of mental health issues still have a very negative connotation. Despite the care provided, people facing mental health disorders are not supported with proper care due to discrimination. Additionally, the MHaPP is working to reevaluate the structure and mindset of mental health in South Africa. Hence, the MHaPP is providing awareness to these issues.

Women are Disproportionately at Risk of Mental Health Problems

According to MHaPP researchers, one in three women in low-income communities experiences postnatal depression. In addition, research from KwaZulu-Natal found that 41% of pregnant women experience depression. This number is three times higher than statistics from developed nations. The project explains that there are strong ties between poverty, social deprivation and exposure to traumatic experiences. This directly influences the mental health of people living in these conditions.

There are correlations between poverty and mental health, especially for women who are older, widowed or in poor physical health. One of the most consistent findings in the study of poverty and mental health in South Africa is that depression and anxiety disorders increase with age.

Poverty and mental health in South Africa are issues that need to be supported by healthcare providers and services. Additionally, this issue needs to be prioritized, especially for women in poorer communities. The mental health stigma needs to be broken through awareness of disorders and alteration of mindset from the current negative outlook that discriminates against people living in poverty and experiencing mental health struggles.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr