World AIDS Day and 16 Days of Activism at Malmesbury Prison

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) was invited to attend the Malmesbury prison World AIDS Day event on 27 November 2012. Sonke was represented by Sikhangele Mabulu, Wessel van den Berg, Mzamo Sidelo and Hanna Jansson.

The event started at 10 am, as the programme director (an offender) welcomed all offenders, 130 in total, as well as the 13 DCS officials and the four service providers from Sonke. Following this, everyone sang the song “Be bright in the corner”, after which the Pastor conducted an opening prayer. He urged everyone to refrain from abusing women and children and also told the offenders that they should think of themselves as HIV positive until they get tested, as a way of preventing HIV from spreading inside the prisons. Before the first speaker, the HIV coordinator at Malmesbury prison, Mr Nkentsha, also welcomed the offenders and the guests.

After two amazing musical items by the offenders’ choir, the first speaker, Mr Wessel van den Berg spoke about issues of fatherhood. He explained that most children copy how their parents act instead of following what their parents say. Therefore, Mr van den Berg encouraged the offenders to always act “as if a young boy is watching”.

Next on the agenda was the lightning of three candles which was conducted by DCS members Mrs Pikini and Mrs Kungune, as well as Ms Hanna Jansson from Sonke. Mrs Pikini and Mrs Kungune explained the meaning of lighting the candles to the offenders and how every correctional centre in the Western Cape conducts these torch events in connection with the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. Ms Jansson gave a short speech about how men and women should work together in order to reach a gender equal society, and that men and women therefore should support each other in the homes, in the workplaces and in our communities, and that it is of utmost importance to raise our children in an equal manner.

The next speaker, Mrs Gweba from DCS, gave an overview of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, and was followed by Mr Sikhangele Mabulu from Sonke, who spoke about gender-based violence and how this is related to the spread of HIV. Mr Mabulu emphasised that everyone should think about the message we send out before we act, and that all offenders should get tested for HIV.

The very well-organised event was closed by two musical items by the offenders’ choir and vote of thanks from DCS member Mrs Kungune, after which refreshments were served.

During the event, Sonke distributed 100 One Man Can pamphlets, 100 MMC pamphlets and 100 Brothers for Life pamphlets. Sonke also had a banner (“Break free, know your status”) on show.

Written by Hanna Jansson