Land lightens women’s care burden

Land lightens women’s care burden

Date: June 26, 2012
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I am Emily Tlale from the Dennilton (Twane) village in South Africa. I work in community development with particular focus on advocating for women’s land access and care giving. While advocating for the rights of communities who are reclaiming land through the land reform programme, I discovered that many landless people, especially women, orphans, and vulnerable children at heads of households have problems accessing land and proper housing. That is why in 2000, I decided to combine my work advocating for land access with volunteering as a care giver for people affected by HIV and AIDS.

I was still then in Johannesburg, a central town in South Africa. I teamed up with other volunteers to focus on Soweto, before moving to Moutse region in the Twane village in 2003. The two experiences were totally different À“ Johannesburg being an urban setting and Twane a rural setting. In Johannesburg, services for different categories of people are more accessible, such as social grants for women with children and elderly people. Anti retroviral drugs are also available at designated centres in different localities.
While the same services may also be available in rural areas, it is not that easy for women to take up these benefits because of the long distance they may have to travel and lack of money to get to the collection points. On the other hand, most rural communities lack information and knowledge about how to care for people with HIV and AIDS. What even makes it more difficult is the oppression or negative response by tribal authorities, like the chiefs and indunas, towards care givers who are often bearers of information for public education and awareness raising.
With a few exceptions traditional authorities in our area often accuse the care givers of “coming to teach our women to disrespect us and we do not want that.À For example many men, even in this era, do not support the use of condoms as it is deemed uncultural. They seldom listen to the concerns women raise and are not interested in taking care of the sick in their families.
I think that government is not supporting care workers sufficiently. I end up using my own money to assist patients and their immediate families with what they need. Most people in the community I work live below the poverty line. They cannot afford many of the basic costs. For example, I buy soap for and food for them.
This how the issue of land access in the context of care work becomes imperative. Women and vulnerable groups who have access to land can grow crops to ensure good nutrition, especially when one needs to take very potent medication like anti-retroviral drugs. I also accompany the patients to go to hospital using my own resources.
The work sometimes takes an emotional toll on me but this is balanced by the contentment I get when I help to lessen the impact of HIV and AIDS. For example, in a family next to my home three members (a sister and two brothers) are living with HIV. The parents were supporting them.   I took the initiative to assist one brother to acquire a grant through the Department of Social Development. The sister is now also receiving a grant.   The situation is now much better for them.   If only many more families could be supported like this, it would reduce our burden for care givers.   As least we will not have to use our personal money.
I visit my patients three to four times a week. When I have money, I can go to the remote areas using public transport. When I do not have money I sometimes have to walk for ten kilometres to or from my home. I also meet with other care givers to discuss issues and problems we encounter as well as possible solutions. I am busy mobilising more women in the locality to establish income generating projects in poultry farming, vegetable production, and baking to be able to provide income.
I also have domestic responsibilities such as taking care of my mother who will be turning 95 years old this year. But I do not have anyone else who assists me. While I do the work I do out of love, I feel like care givers are subsidising government. There is need to redistribute land which could be used for planting medicinal crops and house patients.
Emily Tlale founded the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA) in 1991 and   Loveness Jambaya Nyakujarah is the Gender Justice Programme Manager at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on every day news.

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