Africa Programme


Country: South Africa

In partnership with: Ithembalabantu Resource Centre

Project name: Strengthening of Ithembalabantu as a viable platform of community organisation in Durban

Funded by: Comic Relief

Period: July 2007 - January 2010

In 2008, 10.9% of all South Africans were living with HIV, with the highest prevalence rates in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Whilst this figure has fallen since 1998, before which South Africa had one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world, many people living with HIV still do not have access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) that could prevent their lives being cut short.  Poverty levels are extremely high in the urban and peri-urban areas surrounding KwaZulu-Natal's capital, Durban, and high levels of unemployment increase the population's vulnerability even further. Government estimates place unemployment in the province around 25%, although this figure is thought to be much larger, considering the informality and irregularity of most jobs. One of the main problems is the inadequacy of state support, despite recent improvements in the social security system within the country. Public services are also limited, and in the case of medical treatment for HIV patients, this reality can be a matter of life and death. Where services are available, communities are often unaware of their entitlements or how to access these provisions.


In order to address these difficulties, CODA has been working with Ithembalabantu (meaning ‘hope for the people' in Zulu) to educate  862 community members on the existing services provided by government institutions and helped in building  the capacity of grassroots organisations in the area to facilitate the access to these services. Since the dissemination of vital information is so lacking, 340 community members have also been trained in HIV-related issues, such as home-based care and treatment literacy. The programme directly supports community resource centres, which provide advice and operate support groups for people living with HIV. Community members have reported feeling more comfortable with their HIV status, and are living much healthier lives. Ithembalabantu and the communities involved in the project successfully lobbied for a local clinic to stay open for 24 hours a day, after people living with HIV and AIDs spoke out about the difficulty of accessing essential treatment. Such improvements within the communities produce large-scale positive changes, as many people used to have to travel to their closest hospital at difficult times, in a weak state and without personal transport.

To tackle the issue of unemployment and poverty, Ithembalabantu has established income-generation projects, run by families suffering from the effects of HIV. These projects offer a range of activities, including growing vegetables, sewing school uniforms and carpentry. Despite being small in size, these projects can help sustain a family dealing with the enormous social and economic impact of HIV and allow them to live in dignity. To enable the survival of these projects, 175 family members have been trained in business skills, such as management, costing and pricing, and marketing.

We believe that for change to be relevant and sustainable, it must happen at the grassroots level. The project in KwaZulu-Natal has empowered local residents to defend their right to social services, and has encouraged people living with HIV to make use of networks of support within their community.

This project, funded by Comic Relief, was completed in January 2010. CODA is now seeking funding to support slum dwellers in KZN for its continuation.

Country: Zambia

In partnership with: Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA)

Project name: Improving women's social and legal environment in Zambia: a holistic rights-based approach

Funded by: Comic Relief

Period: 2008 – 2011

Whilst the Zambian government has made certain strides towards addressing gender-based violence (GBV), such as establishing ‘Victim Support Units' within the police service, these policies are implemented without proper training and routinely suffer from a severe lack of resources to function effectively. Many women, as well as those who are employed to support them, are often unaware of their legal rights, and many believe it is simply their role as women to tolerate abuse from within the family and wider society. Women are discouraged from seeking help and legal redress from the police and local courts due to fear of reproach from their spouses, of bringing ‘shame' on their families for rejecting cultural traditions, and of increasing poverty levels, as jailing the perpetrator may cut off their source of income. In addition, many law enforcement officers, including the police and magistrates, do not support new legislation aimed at addressing GBV. Effectively law enforcement structures still deal with women's concerns in a tokenistic way and therefore further disadvantage women.

Women and Law in southern Africa (WLSA Zambia) has engaged in the fight against these practices, aiming to change Zambian law, support victims of GBV, and remove the acceptability of gender discrimination in Zambia. They are working in partnership with CODA International on a multifaceted programme that is training community members in women's rights, training local women to become paralegals and support their peers, as well as educating key sector workers to deliver supportive services to women who come forward to report cases of GBV. These include local health workers, church representatives, police officers, court officials and magistrates, traditional counsellors, and community headmen and chiefs. So far, in the 18 months the project has been running, WLSA has trained over 150 of these important workers, as well as over 150 community members (both women and girls), some of whom have also been trained as paralegals. WLSA also helps women to take their cases to court, and has achieved some breakthrough cases that have set important precedents and are excellent examples to other women suffering in silence. By having an awareness of human rights and knowledge of the avenues in which to defend them, women in impoverished, rural communities are encouraged to speak out and support one another to change negative traditional attitudes towards women.



Country: Kenya

In partnership with: Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative

Funded by: The Hilden Charitable Fund

Period: June 2010 - June 2011

CODA International has formed a firm partnership with TNI, in the Narok district of Kenya. We have received a grant from the Hilden Charitable Fund to support their programme, which is making impressive strides in a local campaign to end the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FGM, or female circumcision), as well as Early Child Marriage (ECM), amongst the Maasai people. Run by Agnes Pareyio, a Maasai woman and FGM survivor, TNI raises awareness amongst the communities about the dangers of FGM (e.g. increased spread of HIV and other diseases, maternal mortality and labour complications). Agnes was awarded the United Nations Kenya Person of the Year title in 2005 for her outstanding and tireless work, which has often left her alienated from her own people. TNI also runs a safe house for young Maasai girls fleeing their homes, as their family is planning to force them to undergo FGM. Whilst staying at the centre, TNI places them in secure boarding schools so that they can complete their education, which is typically cut short as once the girls have undergone FGM they are thought to be ‘ready' for marriage.

ECM is common, as many families are living in poverty, and the dowry received for the release of the girl is a valuable source of income. TNI ensures all community members are sensitised about FGM and other negative traditional practices that violate women's rights, including male members and circumcisers. The centre actively lobbies government and the police service to uphold the law, under which FGM is illegal. They have successfully taken perpetrators to court and sent a clear message to the community that justice for women must, and will, be achieved. Most importantly, TNI is a pillar of security and hope for young girls in the community, and we are extremely pleased to be working with them.

The Hilden Charitable Fund is a London-based charitable trust, and is supporting TNI to pay for 12 girls' tuition fees this year. This will ensure that they can continue their education in safety, free from the threat of FGM. CODA will continue to seek further funding for TNI's essential programmes from a variety of sources.

Country: Zambia

In partnership with: Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA)

Project name: Evaluation on Methodology and Work on Gender Based Violence

Funded by: Comic Relief

Period: September 2006 - August 2007

The project conducted an evaluation of the WLSA approach in their endeavour to overcome the impact of gender based violence on women and girls in Zambia. The evaluation report highlighted the areas where WLSA needed more focus in order to improve the access of women and girls to the legal structures and the legal framework that are intended to protect them from rape and all kinds of violence.