Songa Umcebo

October 2011 saw implementation on Songa Umcebo "Preserving Wealth" Project begin.

Songa Umcebo aims to ensure all 20 textile factories in Swaziland have an operational standardized workplace wellness program, as to reduce HIV vulnerability among the highly affected 16 000 employees of the industry, and the communities with whom they interact.

The project will provide a comprehensive, coordinated and evidence-based HIV prevention response bringing together workplace and community practices and interventions to create a more holistic approach to tackling HIV. At the centre of all is social and behavioral change communication (SBCC).

In partnership with SIPA and the International Organisation for Migration, the project will run from the 1st of October 2011 to September 30th 2013 with funding from the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID through Pact Swaziland.

The objectives and activities of the project are as follows:

Objective 1) 20 Textile Industry Factories will have an operational Standardized Textile Industry Wellness Program. We will achieve this objective through facilitating Stakeholder Dialogues to obtain buy in to the program and through providing Technical Assistance to each of the 20 factories in the from of training and follow up site visits. With the desired outcome of these activities being, to create local environments (workplaces) that supports and enable the implementation of sensitive HIV services to employees and surrounding communities.

Objective 2) 16 000 employees in the textile industry will have comprehensive knowledge on HIV prevention and transmission while identifying common misconceptions, be able to name three disadvantages of practicing MCP and have comprehensive knowledge of TB, including transmission, prevention and treatment. It is through implementing activities such as Workplace Awareness Sessions; trainings to enable the development of a Peer Education Program in the workplace; the creation of SBCC materials and hosting Mass Testing Campaign/Family Days that this objective will be achieved. It is intended that the activities will increase and improve understanding of HIV and the social determinants of health amongst the target population. In addition to increasing and improving the target groups understanding of gender, HIV and TB issues resulting in reduced HIV vulnerabilities, with the end result being a healthy and empowered workforce.

Objective 3) 800 000 condoms will have been distributed to textile factories countrywide. This will be achieved through a coordinated condom distribution and awareness campaign being implemented. The purpose of this activity is to increase the uptake and use of condoms in the target group thus reducing new infections.

Objective 4) 8000 textile industry employees will have increased access to Mobile Wellness Clinic services including HTC; Basic TB screening; and education on HIV co-infections, PMTCT and Palliative and Rehabilitative Services through the provision of the SWABCHA Mobile Wellness Clinic visiting each of the 20 Factories on a regular basis, and the coordination of Mass Testing Campaign Days. The above activities look to increase access to health services for the target group, resulting in improved quality of life.

All activities outlined in the program look to enhance and strengthen the response in the textile and apparel industry as to contribute directly to the National Strategic Framework 2009-2014 targets.

As at April 2012, Letsiwe Seyama, lead Project Officer says she is encouraged by the progress of the program thus far. Going on to say that employees are ensuring they receive the most from activities with the Awareness Sessions and Peer Educators Training being highly interactive, with many questions asked, and HTC being so popular at some locations that additional counselors are called in for the day.