When Veronica Khosa launched Tateni, a South African organization that serves jointly as a training school for nurses and caretakers and as a home care service for terminally ill South Africans, she faced an unusual problem from the population she was trying to serve: social resistance. Typically, social entrepreneurs and their larger citizen groups are greeted by needy peoples, praised and endorsed. Most of the struggling of social entrepreneurs is against government regulations, financials, and the very breadth of their organizational focus.
Khosa certainly faced all of the above challenges. But as a female nurse seeking to educate an ignorant population on the causes, effects, and challenges of HIV-AIDS, Khosa was not merely seeking to tackle a nagging social problem in a deeply impoverished nation – she was taking on ingrained social norms and stigmas. Indeed, she still is.
For most Africans, AIDS is not a disease in the normal sense. Many Africans believe AIDS is brought on by evil spirits; others think AIDS is a disease that affects only whites, one that infects and plagues only gays in the Western populations. When Khosa began Tateni, one of her greatest challenges was to educate the local South African population about HIV-AIDS. Before AIDS patients would find treatment, they would have to admit to their infection to themselves and to others. Obviously, in a country that stigmatizes and discriminates against those with AIDS, Khosa’s task is an unavoidable cornerstone of any anti-AIDS program on the African continent.
One of the first steps in breaking through this social barrier, argues Khosa, is getting family members to accept their HIV-infected siblings, parents or children. David Bornstein recounts instances when Tateni workers would watch as AIDS-infected South Africans would die from thirst and starvation in their own homes, locked in by family members. “His wife left for work without giving him food,” one Tateni worker said of a bed-ridden AIDS patient. “She’s rejecting him.”
So, like many social entrepreneurs whose time and resources are stretched by demand and distances, Khosa made it one of her primary missions to encourage and teach families and communities to learn how to treat AIDS sufferers on their own. By giving instruction to poor Africans on diet, basic medical care, and fundamental information about HIV-AIDS, Tateni sought to eliminate the AIDS stigma and give the people most affected by the epidemic the tools to fight it.
And that, ultimately, is precisely what social entrepreneurship is all about.at November 22, 2005 1:05 AM