The Gugulethu Wellness Centre, located in the Klipfontein district outside of Cape Town, was opened as a joint development between Sonke and the City of Cape Town in 2012. It is run out of a number of containers which house an office, a clinic and a space to host workshops, such as the One Man Can Beyond The Bars programme. Through the Wellness Centre, Sonke is able to reach people in their own communities, with a local presence to strengthen outreach and have repeated interactions around a number of health and gender messages with the community members.
Counselling forms an important part of the centre’s holistic approach, something the staff members believe sets it apart from other clinics in the area. The clinic is clean, plain and orderly. It has white walls, benches, posters and reading material on health issues. Yet, unlike other clinics, the walls and tables are adorned with posters and pamphlets concerning issues such as gender-based violence (GBV), gender equality and encouraging fathers to play with their children or to attend sessions on being a good father, through Sonke’s MenCare programme.
The clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and saw a 21% increase in visitors from September 2012 to September 2013. One of the factors which makes the centre so popular is the availability of a male nurse – which increases men’s willingness to access health services and to go for a check-up.
The failure of men to access health services creates a health burden on their partners, children, and themselves. Studies show that, compared with HIV-positive women, HIV-positive men are less likely to be tested for HIV, less likely to use antiretrovirals, are more likely to start treatment at an advanced stage of HIV, and are more likely to interrupt their treatment.
The Wellness Centre is what its name suggests – it is about promoting wellness, whether around health, relationships or family – and it provides support and counselling to advance health, gender equality and wellness in the community. It provides an alternative social space for men – an alternative to taverns and the like, and a space where men can discuss the issues that they are confronted with in their daily lives.