Children's Health OurHealth Violence Women's Health

Tshwane centre for vulnerable children faces closure

Written by Tshilidzi Tuwani

Martha and her 17-year-old daughter are living with HIV. When they come to the Kopano Lerato centre, they feel accepted and supported. Now, the community-based organisation is in danger of closing.

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Kopano Lerato focuses on women and children and offers educational, emotional and nutritional support for women, and orphaned and vulnerable children (File photo)

Started by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy in 2003, Kopano Lerato – or unity with love – runs a number of programmes including adult and early childhood education, psychosocial support to vulnerable women and children, and assistance with social grants. It also provides text books, school stationary and groceries to the more than 300 vulnerable women and children it supports in Winterveldt.

Martha* is one of those women and today is queuing for a meal after attending a four-hour health education class. Living with HIV, Martha’s daughter was born before antiretrovirals were available to protect her from contracting HIV from her mother while in the womb. As a result, Martha’s daughter was born HIV positive.

Today, she is 17 years old and visits the centre with her mum, who says Kopano Lerato has always supported them.

However, more than a decade after its opening, the community-based organisation faces closure due to a lack of funds, according to Joyce Maseko, who conducts monitoring and evaluation for the organisation.

Facing a financial crisis, this year’s annual commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence may have been Kopano Lerato’s last, Maseko told OurHealth.

Zanele Mlotshwa is a survivor of gender-based violence and said Kopano Lerato helped her deal with issues she held onto long after the violence stopped.

“I started to realise that it’s not like everyone in the world hates me,” said Mlotshwa, who is also living with HIV. “I have people who love me and there are a lot of people like me who take life positively.”

*Surname withheld to protect the HIV status and identity of the child

About the author

Tshilidzi Tuwani

Tshilidzi Tuwani is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Gauteng's Tshwane Health District.