From “Health And Development” To Gender Justice

The SCI was formerly known as the Soul City Institute (SCI) for Health and Development Communication that was established in 1992. SCI believes that “society, communities and individuals have a right to live their best lives in an environment that is safe, supportive and sustainable”.

Through using a combination of mass media, social mobilisation and advocacy, the Soul City Institute has influenced and shaped the lives of millions of children, adults and communities within South Africa and the continent. It is driven by the recognition that human rights are fundamental to health and development, based on active citizenship and principles of social justice.

Over the past 21 years, however, the context within which Soul City has been operating has significantly changed and in order to remain relevant the organisation continues to reassess and realign its work. SCI continues to work with communities and in the media but after an extensive strategic review process, the organisation decided to focus primarily on gender equality, recognising this as a fundamental social determinant necessary for health and development.

History of SCI

SCI started in a small room in Alexandra Clinic in 1992 with 2 young doctors wanting to address the legacy of apartheid on mother and child health. The country was in transition and the time for a bold new start was ripe. Joined by a small team the first Soul City Series was launched and aired in 1994. A television drama, print materials in newspapers and a radio drama, which took South Africa by storm reaching millions of people. Dealing with key mother and child health (MCH) issues, the series was hailed as a ground-breaking intervention. Building on its success, SCI produced more series dealing with numerous issues such as smoking, hypertension, alcohol, land & housing and importantly HIV/AIDS, as the epidemic began to take hold in South Africa. Hoping to extend the impact of the electronic media SCI developed a set of training materials which were SETA accredited and used by multiple organisations to build skills and knowledge about the various MCH and HIV/AIDS issues. Each series was evaluated, and the SCI developed its theory of change learning from the evaluations.

The 4th series of SCI broke the mould and was a TV series of 1-hour long episodes with a linked national advocacy campaign calling for the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act by December 1999. The campaign was in partnership with National Network on Violence Against Womxn, creating a groundswell of pressure on the government to implement the ACT. The evaluations studies showed overwhelmingly positive results including cost effectiveness. The campaign also led to the establishment of South Africa’s first national toll free helpline to stop womxn abuse, in partnership with Lifeline. Numerous awards have been won by the television series and the organisation as a whole.

At the same time SCI turned to its youngest audience acknowledging that although many of watchers and listeners were children, the material was designed for older youth and adults.

In 2000 the Soul Buddyz series for children 8-12 years old and their parents was born in partnership with SABC education. The series was a 26-part television drama series, a radio drama series, grade 7 booklets and booklets for parents. The focus of this series was children’s rights, child abuse, disability, gun control and road safety, and AIDS. The series was an immediate hit with over 80% of children watching the television and many parents too. The evaluation of the series was very positive.

Subsequent to Soul City Series 4 and Soul Buddyz SCI continued to wow audiences with 9 more Soul City series dealing with topics such as disability, rape, AIDS and children, alcohol abuse, cancer of the cervix. In terms of HIV/AIDS SCI dealt with numerous aspects over the years: AIDS and Human Rights, Stigma, PMTCT, Medical Male Circumcision, adherence to treatment, and during the AIDS Denialist Era SCI dealt with information about ART, for adults and children and worked with activists in civil society to counter the myths and misinformation that were being propagated during this difficult period.

Soul Buddyz too continued to be produced and a further four series were broadcast dealing with sexuality, xenophobia, the environment, bullying and substance abuse, as well as parenting issues.

In the meantime SCI was developing the social mobilisation interventions to support the mass media. For adults there were partnerships and advocacy campaigns supporting successful advocacy campaigns such as ACESS which supported the implementation of the Child Support Grant, arguably one of the most important health intervention for children since 1994. Other advocacy campaigns the reflector campaign which was for the use of reflector material in school uniforms to increase visibility of children on roads.

The Soul Buddyz Club was developed and implemented in 2003. A recent study has shown that belonging to a SBC decreases a girl’s chance of being HIV positive 10 years later by 50%.

Between 1999 – 2001, Soul City worked on a successful project in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia where a youth publication called ‘Choose Life’ was adapted for each country.  Over 1, 331, 000 copies of these Choose Life booklets were successfully distributed in the four countries in seven different languages.

In 2002 the SCI regional programme was launched in response to demand from donors and countries for the SCI materials, and as a result of the success of the Choose Life Programme.. Partner countries were: Lesotho (Phela); Malawi (Pakachere); Mozambique (N’weti);Namibia (Desert Soul);Swaziland (Lusweti), Zambia (ZCCP )Zimbabwe (Action Pals). The programme not only produced multimedia interventions in each country, but the partners in each country were supported and build and continue to produce SBCC programmes to date.

In 2009 SCI introduced Kwanda an innovative community development initiative aimed at mobilising people to uplift the communities where they live. Central to the Kwanda process was a reality TV community makeover show. The show was the first of its kind, with five teams challenged to make their community “look better, feel better and work better” – the catchphrase of the show.  5 communities (Kwakwatsi; Tjakastad, Lephaphane, Pefferville, and Ugu) in SA attended an Organisation Workshop facilitated by a team from Seriti institute and SCI, and was filmed by Ochre Media. Teams have continued to work after the intervention for a number of years and have brought multiple changes to their communities.

Campaigns such as the OneLove campaign, which was a 10 country Southern African campaign against multiple and concurrent sexual partners, in order to decrease HIV infections have been implemented by SCI, with numerous partners and showing great successes. The Phuza Wize campaign is bearing fruits with laws controlling alcohol being suggested which include almost all the Phuza Wize campaign demands.

In 2014 SCI started the Rise Young Womxn’s Clubs to build social cohesion and social support for young womxn who are amongst the most vulnerable to becoming infected with HIV in SA. The clubs (both in and out of school) enable girls and young womxn to build their self-esteem and engage in a meaningful way in their communities as active citizens. This project has grown to a RISE Advocacy Coalition of club members who are trained in leadership, democracy, governance and advocacy to take the voice of the RISE Club movement to decision makers at local, provincial and national level to advance gender equality.

The Good Life Network was a pilot of a health Channel broadcasting a variety of health shows 24/7 for 3 months in partnership with the National Department of Health. Many innovative programmes were developed and aired.

All SCI programmes have been based on research and evidence, a central tenet of the programme development process. The project cycle includes evaluations which have enabled the organisation to understand the impact of its programmes and to develop and adjust its theory of change.

In 2016, over two decades since its formation, the intersectionalities of race, class and gender inequalities (the social determinants of health) black womxn continue to bear the greatest health burden in South Africa. This catalyzed a strategic review of the SCI’s vision and mission and led to the transformation of the organisation into the SCI for Social Justice – a feminist organisation for young womxn and girls.

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