BlogHers Act: You can help empower women of South Africa and end HIV/AIDS stigma

When I was building the landing page for our BlogHers Act – GlobalGiving campaign I went ahead and made my donation before we officially launched. It’s always good to test these things, I like testing things.

I looked closely at all five projects and thought about whether I wanted to donate to all of them or just one of them or a few of them. I’m going to be really honest and say that it was super easy for me to donate money to some of them – how do you say “no” to $10 paying for a year of health care for five women or children? That’s just too easy. There’s a huge “wow! my money can do that!” factor. But, when I got to the PWN Project to End HIV/AIDS Stigma in South Africa and saw “$50 provides counseling and education for two women with AIDS” there just wasn’t a “Wow” factor. HIV/AIDS is an issue I care a lot about and if I didn’t feel the “Wow” then I’m guessing most other people didn’t feel it either.

Then I noticed that Erin had assigned this project to me to blog and I spent two days wondering how to bring that “Wow” to you – so that you’d give. But a strange thing happened to me as I was researching, I got angry and I felt sad and I was proud of my donation to this project – “wow” or no “wow”.

Let me show you what I found.

First stop, the project landing page at GlobalGiving for the basics.

The Positive Women’s Network helps HIV-positive women, who are often ignored or blamed for their infections, to support themselves and their families and fight against the AIDS stigma in South Africa.

I clicked over to the PWN external project home page where I saw a link to an audio interview with Prudence Mabele. (You should click over to it and turn it on to listen to while you read the rest of this post. Some music will play and a little newsy type of blip, and then the interview will start. Be patient, it’s worth it.)

While I was listening, I launched a google search for PWN, AIDS South Africa and Prudence Mabele and this is where I began to feel frustrated and sad and angry.


Women are at a greater risk of contracting HIV than men because of social, cultural and biological factors like child marriages, polygamy, rape, defilement, wife inheritance, poverty, exploitation and ignorance.

Last year, Sizakele Sigasa,an outreach co-ordinator at the Positive Women’s Network and a lesbian and gay rights activist, and her friend Salome Masooa, were tortured and murdered.

Sigasa was found with her hands tied with her underpants and her ankles tied with her shoelaces, with three bullet holes in her head and three in her collarbone.

The most obvious next stop was more information about the woman whose voice I was listening to. And here’s where the inspiration comes.

Prudence Mabele, one of the first African women to say publicly “I am HIV+” and founder of the Positive Women’s Network.

Ten years ago, when Prudence Mabele discovered she had HIV, she was told to abandon her studies. She was working towards her degree in analytical chemistry at a time when HIV was neither understood nor tolerated in South Africa. “There were a lot of problems then”, she said. “They didn’t understand a lot about AIDS, so they told me to leave what I was doing because I was going to infect staff and students. They thought if I was at the laboratory I would infect people.”

This woman started something amazing in a country where women are property of their husbands and can become property of their husbands brothers if their husbands die.

Babweteera says a major concern in her area is the practice of wife inheritance. When a man dies, his wife can be inherited by his brother, which when combined with polygamy, can lead to a greater spread of HIV.

And then, I found this youtube video created by a 16 year old girl who supports the work of PWN.

If that wasn’t enough, a couple of hours after I’d finished my research and was wandering around BlogHer – reading posts, catching up on forum entries, I stumbled into a very personal story about AIDS in South Africa.

One four and half year old from an ordinary suburb, with a dog and a pool, was being treated for AIDS.

Now, let me show you just a few more things. Go and read Jenn’s post about Mommybloggers helping Mommybloggers. Go and listen again to Maria Niles talking to Eve Ensler about the power of women and did you see what happened when Jen Lemen asked her community, many of whom are BlogHer members, for help? And imagine, just imagine, what Laurie and Nordette are getting involved in while they’re at SuperLove this weekend.

Women are changing the world through writing, through action, and through donations.

Go on – blog this. Please, tell people about what PWN is doing to help women and families in South Africa and then make a donation to PWN.

cross posted about BlogHer


  1. You need to read 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa. I need to FINISH reading it so I can blog about it.

  2. It’s like you’re a mind reader.

    I first went to the Aids donation page, because I care a lot about Aids, and especially about women infected with Aids who are blamed for their disease even though careless, uncaring men had infected them. But I got turned off b/c it was $50. And b/c it was “counseling”, not medication. So yes, there was no “wow” factor.

    My totally unasked for input? If BlogHer’s stats show that people don’t give to the Aids campaign, then BlogHer and GlobalGiving need to find a way to make it a “wow”, so that people would look at the page and think “wow, this is a small amount to donate and it will make such a big difference”.

    Personally, I am going over there now to give those $50 b/c I can, and b/c you asked so nicely :) and because I value you enough to listen to you. But really, to reach a larger audience, someone over at BlogHer or at GlobalGiving’s marketing department needs to rethink their strategy.

  3. Firstly thank you for donating to PWN and blogging about their work. Ending the stigma of HIV/AIDS is key to ensuring people gain access to critical medication, counseling and information on prevention.

    And thank you for the feedback about this project title. I work at IDEX the non-profit organization that posted this project on GlobalGiving (no need to contact the GlobalGiving marketing department, they do not craft the project descriptions).

    I agree that the “wow” factor is missing! I’m curious to know what key words attract you to projects.


    Gillian Wilson
    IDEX Communications Director

  4. @ Gillian: I went back and looked at the five BlogHer projects. I’m not sure if it makes sense that the “noon meals campaign” generated 40K – way more than all the others. In addition, the AIDS cause is actually not doing too badly compared with some of the other projects. Perhaps what BlogHer is doing – promoting each cause separately – makes sense after all.

    Having said that, I do think that the biggest problem with your campaign is the amounts. Just seeing “50, 100, 500” is a big turnoff. Especially when you realize it will go towards counseling, not meds.

    If at all possible, I would try to find a way to turn it into a “25, 50, 75, 100” ladder instead. For example, if $25 can help one woman receive counseling that would empower her to not give up and to find ways to support herself and her kids, I would put that as the first donation amount. I would also let go of the $500 – some people can do it, for most it’s just a turnoff that would make them avoid donating to this cause and looking elsewhere.

    As for wording. Again, looking at the “noon campaign”, which I would think is quite weak, but so successful, perhaps wording isn’t that important. But since you asked, this is how I would say it:

    Help Women Infected with AIDS, South Africa

    HIV-positive women in Africa are often blamed for their infection and are cast aside by a society who believes that an HIV infection is a punishment for promiscuity and a death sentence. The Positive Women’s Network helps these women receive counseling, that empowers them to fight the stigma, hold on to their dignity, go on with their lives and find ways to support themselves and their children.

    How You Can Help:

    $25 – an HIV-infected woman will receive counseling that would give her important tools for fighting the stigma and financially supporting herself and her children.

    $50 – 2 HIV-infected women will attend a workshop where they will learn about their treatment options, reproductive health, and nutrition.

    Denise, sorry for the longish comment.

  5. Thanks Denise.

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

    I monitor giving amounts and try and offer a range of levels for all of our projects. But I rarely get direct feedback from a donor so this is really useful.


  6. Apologies to Vered. I should have been thanking you for your response.