Investing in the Future Health Award

Sonke has been working with prisons since 2007 to address the epidemics of HIV and TB and the scourge of sexual violence

Sonke has been working with prisons since 2007 to address the epidemics of HIV and TB and the scourge of sexual violence

Sonke Gender Justice is a South African nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that strengthens government, civil society and citizen capacity to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence, and reduce the spread and impact of HIV.  Sonke has been working with prisons since 2007 to address the epidemics of HIV and TB and the scourge of sexual violence in prisons.

These are driven by toxic gender norms and behaviours, as well as structural factors such as extreme overcrowding, poor ventilation and inadequate access to exercise and medical services, all of which amount to a violation of inmates’ human rights.

Within this framework, Sonke and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) began tracking complaints of severe overcrowding and its effects in Pollsmoor Remand Detention Facility in March 2014. Overcrowding has been a chronic problem for the past 20 years; weekly monitoring of the facility’s capacity indicated that as of October 2016, Pollsmoor was operating at 249% of its approved capacity, accommodating 2 413 more detainees than it was built to accommodate safely and humanely.

Following a scathing report by Justice Edwin Cameron about the conditions in Pollsmoor and an outbreak of leptospirosis there, Sonke and LHR launched a court application to challenge the inhumane conditions of detention there in December 2015. They also launched the advocacy campaign “One Judge, One Jail” that encourages judges to conduct independent judicial inspections of prisons.

Better Care Fund

Better Care’s self-help learning programmes for healthcare workers have been scientifically proven to positively improve knowledge and understanding, clinical skills, attitudes and patient care. Its learning programmes, developed by leading experts, improve confidence and competence. Better Care is the sum of its parts; each part carries considerable weight within the healthcare field.

Better Care began in 1989 with distance learning material developed by the Perinatal Education Trust. This drew the attention of Electric Book Works, an organisation that “experiments with new ways to make and distribute books”. As part of Electric Book Works, Better Care became a social enterprise and later became an non-profit organisation and public benefit organisation to further align itself with its aims; it is now self-sustaining.  The 19 course books are used by a wide range of organisations to train their students and staff. Peer-reviewed studies have documented the efficacy of the learning programmes in improving nursing and doctor competence and patient-centred care.

Better Care has excellent relationships with leading healthcare providers and training institutions, including most medical schools and nursing colleges, provincial health facilities, Life Healthcare and the Nurse Connect and Mom Connect projects of the national department of health’s e-health and m-health strategies.