CATCH strengthens the role of community leaders
In Botswana tradition, the Chief in a community was always known to be the fundamental element of all activity in a village. Anything new that was brought to the village came in through the Chief; this may be a new campaign, a new government program, or even a new organization. As the Chief is in charge of that community; it is necessary that he be made aware of what is being brought into his community, what it will affect and how it will change the state of his community. In this way, he would then be able to guide the process as the leader; from introducing and informing the community to the delegation of key people in the community to oversee the adaptation of program or activity into the community.
“CATCH came to our communities in the correct manner: through the chiefs, and this is a process that was always followed in our tradition,” says Kgosi Matsetse of Sefhoke Ward, Tlokweng, in an interview with Humana.
Communities Acting Together to Control HIV, known as CATCH, is an intervention started by the Government of Botswana in 2015, following recommendations made at the 2012 National HIV Prevention Pitso held in Francistown, which called for communities to initiate strategies to help in the fight against HIV. It is funded through the National Aids Coordination Agency (NACA) and facilitated by Humana People to People Botswana.
“Our children from Humana People to People introduced themselves and the program to the chiefs; they trained the chiefs on CATCH, involved the chiefs in its implementation and gave the chiefs the power to monitor its progress in their communities. In fact, wherever CATCH is in place, there is a chief in the lead. It has restored the leadership role of dikgosi (chiefs) over their communities. For this reason, the communities understand the program better and have taken full ownership. We are very grateful to CATCH for that,” he says.
It is evident that CATCH has become a very successful program in the implementing communities of the South East District: Ramotswa, Tlokweng, Taung, Otse and Mogobane all of which started piloting the program in 2015, facilitated by HOPE Humana South East.
As communities came together to realize the social challenges that were at the root of HIV infection in their villages, they were able to open up about all the problems and challenges they were dealing with, and some of those who did not even want to disclose their status became more open about it, even encouraging others to test. The people started to realize their own power over their health; and started testing together, taking treatments together, encouraging each other. The communities planned actions and achieved results together, and this ensured success of CATCH as an intervention.
Paramount Chief of Batlokwa, Kgosi Gaborone described CATCH as a very good program. “Firstly, for us as chiefs, CATCH has given us back charge over our communities. Where communities have wandered off the centre from their leadership, CATCH has managed to lead them back home. Secondly, this program reminds us as a nation about the importance of Chiefs, or community leaders. Our beliefs, our knowledge and our culture clearly show that a chief is the mainstay of any community, the pillar which a community revolves around, and without this pillar there is no life; this is what CATCH is trying to show us.”
According to Chief Gaborone, this program simply encourages communities to know and understand the problems that they face as a community; to own these problems and then seek solutions together to address such problems. He says CATCH calls upon each member of the community to actively take part in the process to ensure that decisions about their lives are made by them and not prescribed by someone else.