Lovelife 2012 Annual Report briefing

Social Development

12 November 2012
Chairperson: Ms P Tshwete (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

A Member questioned the absence, once again, of the Minister, but this was an issue that the Committee would take up in another forum.

LoveLife gave a briefing on its 2011 Annual Report. The organisation reported on its highlights as well as its difficulties in securing the data. It described its distribution and its sites throughout the country. Sites across the country were served by a community of 1 545 “groundBREAKERS”, of whom 59% were female, and 77% were youth under 23. All of the recruits had passed grade 12, and this programme was effective for them in that many found employment and went on to complete tertiary studies. There were 8 226 mpintshis, from who groundBREAKERS were sourced.  goGogetters were women who worked with vulnerable groups, and they tended to be older women of some standing in their communities. The loveLife programmes were offered in registered schools, and other events were also held with schools that were not registered, taking the form of talks. There were several programmes offering parent and child discussion sessions. The greatest number of supported children were in the provinces of Limpopo and Eastern Cape. loveLife had a call centre. The recent study had explored ten categories of issues that concerned young people. Cell phone communication was important and effective, but other media routes would also be used. loveLife wanted to continue to promote condom use, but especially female condoms.

Members appreciated some of the information given in the report, but were disappointed that the organisation had not mentioned its challenges, and had concentrated on quantitative reports, rather than qualitative insights. However, this would be addressed in future reports. Several Members expressed their concern at the report that there were so many pregnancies in the 12 to 19 age group, and that over 15% of the girls said they did not know how they had fallen pregnant. They questioned if sex education was offered at schools, what its effectiveness was, at what grades it started, and whether loveLife was doing enough to change cultural perceptions, in particular enforcing the female’s right to refuse sex. Members noted the unequal distribution of male and female condoms, said that this was a point that had to be addressed and questioned if there were partnerships with other bodies. They suggested, and received details on, incentives offered for consistent use of condoms, and questioned the statistics around transactional sex, and increased use of alcohol in females. They commented that there did not seem to be enough presence by loveLife in the farming communities. They asked for more detail on the stipends, role and effectiveness of the goGogetters, groundBREAKERS and mpintshis. They also expressed concern about the R35 million subsidies that had not yet been transferred by the Department of Health to loveLife, and asked about the effect of this upon its programmes.

Meeting report

Opening remarks and procedures
Ms P Tshwete (ANC) was nominated as Acting Chairperson. She noted the apologies of the Minister of Social Development and some Members.

Mr M Waters (DA) objected to the absence of the Minister, saying that there had been non-attendance of a number of meetings in the past.

The Acting Chairperson said that she would take this issue up with the Whip, but this issue was not open for any further discussion at present.

loveLife Annual Report 2011/12 briefing
Ms Grace Matlhape, Chief Executive Officer, New loveLife Trust, started by describing the highlights of loveLife during the 2011/12 financial year. She noted that, in respect of surveys, loveLife had some difficulty in collecting data on paper, but did make use of technology such as mobile phones. Sites across the country were served by a community of “groundbreakers”. In all there were 1 545, of whom 59% were female and 77% fell into the age group of 18 to 23 years. The bulk of the recruits tended to be younger than in previous studies. In 2011, all the youth leaders had passed grade 12.

There were also 8 226 “mpintshis”, most of whom were concentrated in Limpopo Province. Slightly more than half of the recruits were female.

Slide 7 (see attached presentation for full details) showed the number of registered schools where loveLife programmes were implemented, and these illustrated the productivity of groundBREAKERS and mpintshis. Events were also held at schools that were not registered. These took the form of talks around specific themes and presentations (as outlined in slide 12).

In addition, loveLife hosted Bornfree dialogues between the youth and their parents. These participants numbered 73 000.

The numbers of goGogetters in each province were indicated on slide 15. The greatest number of supported children were in the provinces of Limpopo and Eastern Cape.

Slide 17 described the activities of the call centres. Calls were mostly from the provinces of Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Free State. The reasons for calling were varied, but included questions on how people could become a groundBREAKER, advice on relationships (this was the main reason behind majority of calls), advice on careers and opportunities, and information about loveLife events.

Information relating to the funding of the 612 groundBREAKERS was set out on figure 4, and this also gave the gender breakdown. The number of mpintshis recruited by each region was indicated in figure 6.

Ms Matlhape described the impact of the loveLife study. It had explored ten categories which affected and concerned young people. Issues that were of substantial concern were those around transactional sex. It was also of concern that 15.7% of girls claimed not to know why they were pregnant. Girls were drinking more alcohol than males.

Cell phone communication was most important and effective but that it was necessary to try additional media.

Four important priorities were then listed. LoveLife felt it was necessary to find a strategy for women’s condoms to become more acceptable and available. A package of incentives needed to be devised which would reward condom usage. It felt that more programmes needed to be based on cell phone usage, and multimedia programmes were essential.

Discussion
The Acting Chairperson praised the programme of loveLife. However, she noted that none of its challenges had been listed for 2011/12. She felt that there was too great an emphasis on quantitative results, as opposed to qualitative outcomes – particularly those relating to youth clinics (page 30 of the Annual Report 2011) and the work carried out by goGogetters.

An ANC member said that whilst she had found the presentation most informative, she was quite shocked to hear that most of the sexually active youth were not using condoms, and that only 26% were regularly using condoms all the time. She asked what loveLife was doing to encourage condom use.

The Member noted that, amongst young people, transactional sex was rife. She enquired whether condom use would reduce the incidence of transactional sex. She agreed that a programme to reward condom usage should be set up. She suggested that such rewards should include bursaries for schooling.

This Member agreed with the Chairperson that no challenges had been mentioned. No mention was also made of the difficulties relating to orphans and/or poorly parented children. She asked whether parents were opposed to the interaction/intervention of the goGogetters, whether the goGogetters were not exposed to danger as they might be seen as being critical of parental abilities and be seen as undermining the authority of the parents, and whether religious and/or traditional leaders in rural areas were opposed to the programmes, as those institutions did claim to address these issues themselves. She also wondered if the religious institutions felt that the programs were encouraging sexual activity amongst the youth. She asked if primary or secondary schools were being targeted and wondered whether there was a forum for parents to address their concerns and be informed of the aims of loveLife.

Ms M Mafolo asked whether the goGogetters and groundBREAKERS received a stipend and whether it was the same in each region. She also wanted to know how the regions were demarcated.

Ms Mafolo was appreciative of the fact that loveLife was encouraging the use of female condoms. She enquired as to what had been done to address the discomforts and disadvantages attached to the wearing of the female condom.

Mr M Waters (DA) expressed his concern that female condoms were not readily available. He noted the huge discrepancy in the number of male and female condoms distributed, as there were about one billion male condoms, but only half a million female condoms distributed. He called upon the Department of Health to assist.

Mr Waters noted the results of the studies on pregnancies in young women aged between twelve and nineteen years. He said that this showed that 55% did not think about the risks attached to unprotected sex and 15% did not understand how the pregnancy occurred. In this regard, he asked whether sex education at schools was effective, at what age or grade it started, and said he would certainly recommend that it was done before the age of 12.

Mr Waters noted that there was no research carried out on the male use of condoms, and asked how safe sex was promoted amongst this high risk group. It was extremely important that there be a cultural shift for achieving a zero rate of new infections.

Mr Waters said that the majority of females were not empowered. For this reason, he wanted to know how loveLife was educating the male youth about female rights. This would also involve a cultural shift, where males would need to be educated to respect a female’s right to say “no”.

Mr Waters asked whether there was still R35 million outstanding from the Department of Health (DOH), as set out on page 6 of the Annual Report. He asked why the amount had not been settled.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) also suggested that the DOH be involved in promoting the use of female condoms. She noted that there had been an improvement in female condom use, yet this problem still needed to be addressed. Male condoms were easily available and easier to use and therefore were used more frequently.

Ms Khumalo noted with concern that alcohol consumption amongst girls had increased.

Ms Khumalo wondered why, in the rural areas, there seemed to be difficulty by loveLife in conveying the information to the youth, as evidenced by the high number of pregnancies among young girls. She wondered if this high rate of pregnancies was exacerbated by unemployment and poverty.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) expressed concern that loveLife was sparsely represented and said that it needed to increase its presence in all provinces so that the youth would not miss out on the opportunities it offered. She asked why some groundBREAKERS had left the programme before the end of the year in 2011.

Ms P Xaba (IFP) asked for assistance in her constituency (Ivory Park).

The Acting Chairperson asked if there was any collaboration with other groups who also worked with youth who are involved with alcohol and drug abuse.

The Acting Chairperson had several questions around the groundBREAKERS. She also wanted to know why some had left the programme, as outlined on page 31 of the Annual Report. She asked if any follow-up of these young people had been done, whether they had been trained any further, and whether they had the capacity to train others.

The Acting Chairperson felt that not enough attention had been addressed to the plight of farming communities, noting that only two sites had been established. These communities experienced serious problems, including those of alcohol and high rates of pregnancy. She felt that youth who were “not busy” or productively engaged were likely to show many more pregnancies.

Ms Matlhape admitted that there had been many challenges, difficulties and frustrations experienced in 2011/12, which had not been explored in her presentation. The most significant challenge was the current funding environment. All of loveLife’s international agreements had ended, and the organisation was operating on a budget that was now 30% less than it had been four years previously. LoveLife planned to become more efficient so that its insights and programmes could be implemented.

She said that the questions had identified some other challenges. The first was transactional sex. The second was the goGogetter initiatives. These highly respected people supported orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC), yet they were not used enough in their communities. They were able to challenge difficult socio-cultural issues and effect change. They resolved difficulties, frequently, from their own pockets. The goGogetters have access to professional social workers who linked them with other services. A dedicated helpline had been established by the Call Centre of loveLife. Insofar as the training and funding of goGogetters was concerned, there had originally been funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but this had now ended. The training was, however, still being given wherever possible. However, there was not sufficient funding to expand the programme to reach more young people and provide additional training for the goGogetters.

Ms Matlhape explained that loveLife had a partnership with Age In Action and other NGOs through monthly support group meetings.

Ms Matlhape acknowledged that the report had a greater focus on a quantitative rather than on a qualitative presentation. She undertook that future assessments would address this criticism. She would give more to the details of the essence of the programmes, as was done in a previous report.

Ms Matlhape moved to the questions around condom use. The Annual Report showed that condom use was generally high amongst the youth, but not among those in a transactional sex arrangement. Where the power was unequal and rested on the male, condom use dropped significantly. LoveLife intended to focus intensely on this problem.

Ms Matlhape agreed that previously, there was resistance from church groups and traditional entities. However, these entities now understood that loveLife’s agenda was not to promote more sex, but to ensure that the sex that would happen was safer. There were a number of churches that hosted a loveLife franchise. The communities understood now that there was a need to discuss issues facing young people.

In relation to the school programmes, she noted that the identification of the type of school was omitted due to a technical hitch on the field form. This would be rectified in the database in future, in tandem with the Department of Basic Education.

Ms Matlhape outlined the stipends that were paid. The goGogetters received R500 per month. GroundBREAKERS received R1200 per month. Mpintshis did not receive any money, other than in the North West where there was a subsidy from the National Department of Social Development. She noted that the training of mpintshis was different from that of the groundBREAKERS. The future aim was to provide the same quality of programmes and training as there was for the groundBREAKERS. The groundBREAKERS were chosen from the ranks of the mpintshis. The impact of the groundBREAKERS programme showed that people who had been trained in this programme became leaders in their communities, were more employable and often completed their tertiary education.

She explained the charts, saying that loveLife divides the country into convenient districts. The offices were located at the sites where there were red dots.

Ms Matlhape then answered the questions on the female condoms. They were not consistently used because of the negative perceptions surrounding them. The female condom offered an opportunity for females to take control, yet the effort and monies invested were not the same as those for male condom usage. Research had shown that youth who used a condom when they had sex for the first time were likely to be consistent condom users. This was therefore an opportunity for young women to take control, to prevent infections. The success of this programme depended, initially, on the acceptance of the device and its availability. Access to these condoms was extremely important, as they were expensive and difficult to get. There was a partnership with the Department of Health, United Nations Population Fund and the Society for Family Health (in conjunction with the Swedish government) to improve the availability of the number of female condoms.

Mr Scott Burnett, Group Director: Programmes, loveLife, explained that the availability of the female condom was a critical success factor for the project. There was a huge disparity between the number of male and female condoms that had been distributed, as outlined by Mr Waters. However, as South African research projects showed, an increased demand should spark an increased supply.

Ms Matlhape agreed that a cultural shift was necessary to achieve the goals of zero new infections. Partnerships with John Hopkins University and others had shown how the influence of young leaders effected a change in cultural perceptions. This had therefore highlighted the importance of the goGogetter and groundBREAKER programmes. It was hoped that this would also impact on the uptake and acceptability of the female condom.

Ms Matlhape turned to the issue of the outstanding funding. She emphasised that the non delivery of R35 million from the DOH before the end of the financial year had immobilised the organisation for 2012. The matter had not yet been resolved. It was hoped that by the end of November 2012 loveLife would have liaised with members of the DOH.

Mr Burnett answered the question relating to sex education in schools. Learners were given sex instruction from the age of 12 years, or at Grade 4. The survey showed that 15.7% of girls who had fallen pregnant for the first time did not understand why. He said he was unable to understand the reason for that, but that there would be a further analysis of the survey to explore what exactly was not understood. The survey did not address the issue of male-on-male sexuality. loveLife had a holistic approach to all aspects of sexuality. The survey had showed that young people were moving towards having healthy sex. The majority of males used condoms, except for those males who were in unequal relationships, which included transactional sex, age disparity relationships, and sex with young women in temporary settlements. Incentives for greater condom use included rewards of branded jeans, air time and the like, as well as rewards which ensured their future for young people, such as school or tertiary education bursaries.

Mr Burnett agreed that the survey showed that young women were drinking more alcohol than their male counterparts. Risky behaviour was usually linked to inequality, low self esteem and no sense of the future. However this survey showed that low self esteem particularly was the driving reason for the use of alcohol amongst young girls.

He acknowledged that the presence of loveLife offices in Ivory Park is too low and will be rectified

Ms Matlhape explained that groundBREAKERS who left the programme before their 12 month contract had expired were replaced by mpintshis, so that there was a continuity of service. They left for various reasons, and usually towards the end of their contract, often to take advantage of an employment offer. Currently there were approximately the same numbers of male (48%) and female (52%) groundBREAKERS. In the past there were usually more males than females. These numbers were mirrored in the mpintshis population. A survey from the past two years had shown that ex groundBREAKERS were more likely to be employed (60%) as compared to the national average. Statistics also showed that 49% furthered their tertiary education, and completed it.

She added that a groundBREAKER Alumni Programme had been established, which maintained follow up surveys, using a data base which frequently offered opportunities for ex-groundBREAKERS, and also offered effective contact through interactive social networks. Positions were offered as mpintshis to discouraged ex groundBREAKERS who had been unable to find employment

Ms Matlhape acknowledged that the marketing of loveLife to the farming areas was considered a priority, but it presented a big challenge. Access to farm schools was very limited, as this depended on the farmers and had not proved very successful in the past. The strategy that would be employed was to liaise with the big corporates in the farming community, not with the individual farmers.

Ms P Xaba (ANC) offered the use of her office to groundBREAKERS when they were able to assist in her constituency.

Mr N Kganyago (UDM) suggested contacting a similar organisation in the Limpopo area called “The Wayfarers “. He offered contact details.

The meeting was adjourned.


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