Celebrating Positive Women’s Network
On this last day of site visits in Johannesburg, over half of our group had the honor of being guests at Positive Women’s Network (PWN) 20th Anniversary celebration in Wattville in Ekurhuleni township outside of Johannesburg, (while the others explored Constitution Hill). PWN empowers women and girls living with HIV/AIDS by providing access to vital support and services while also promoting gender equity and human rights. It was founded by Prudence Mabele, one of the first black South African women to speak freely about her HIV status and PWN has thrived under her courageous leadership.
We were welcomed by song, dance, and prayer with PWN staff and community members, which continued throughout the celebration. PWN prioritizes working in partnership and some of their key partners were invited to the front of the room to share more about their work, including Traditional Healers Organization, Lethabong Clinic, Lithanza Community Development and Training, and the Methodist Church. As long-term funding partners, International Development Exchange (IDEX) gave a moving tribute to PWN for the way they hold community with love and tirelessly fight a fight that feels like it may never end.
Another PWN partner is Lesabe Higher Primary School, where the students are given many opportunities for after school activities. PWN has an office on their campus where they provide information and counseling and hold women’s groups. One of our top highlights for the day was when 25 children performed song and dance for the anniversary celebration, reminding us that part of our work is to sustain the bright energy of the next generation.
The celebration was held at the OR Tambo Cultural Precinct, which houses an auditorium, a theatre, and a museum honoring the life of two of Wattville’s beloved leaders Oliver Reginald Tambo, former president of the ANC, and his wife, Adelaide. We visited the museum exhibit and the beautiful grounds. We were also able to visit their gravesite, which has been declared a National Heritage Site. The community takes seriously the responsibility of honoring those who have come before them.
PWN’s chairperson, Susan Nkomo, spoke of the great pain experienced daily in the community that is not acknowledged by those in power and how allies in government seem to have forgotten about those who are suffering – from losing many loved ones to HIV/AIDS, from having their daughters and sisters raped and assaulted, and from being controlled and restricted by those who pretend to help. And she also spoke of the hope provided by solidarity. Through solidarity, she shared, “We can build a place where all of us are affirmed as human beings and are loved. That act of loving is the most radical thing we can do.”
This international learning exchange was planned in conjunction with our esteemed partners at International Development Exchange (IDEX).