Matlhape has been loveLife’s deputy CEO since 2005, responsible for the management of loveLife’s face-to-face programmes that reach over half a million young people every month throughout South Africa. “Grace has the depth of experience and insight into the lives of young people that are required for further gains in HIV prevention,” says Chairperson of the loveLife Trust, Ms Cheryl Carolus. “It is clear that the main sticking point in the epidemic is not a lack of knowledge about HIV, but rather the high tolerance of risk among young people who know that they could become infected, but are aimless and uncertain of their future. loveLife’s mandate is to build a sense of real and immediate possibility for young people, and we are delighted that Grace will lead the next phase of our strategy.”
Joining loveLife in 2002 as Programmes Director, Matlhape was subsequently promoted to the Deputy CEO in September 2005. In this time, she has developed and modified programmes to benefit loveLife’s target audience of 12-17 year olds to ensure that they receive the vital message to remain HIV free. Her hands-on and dynamic approach has led her to travel to the far reaching corners of South Africa to ensure that programmes for young people are implemented consistently throughout the country, while always keeping loveLife’s programmes innovative and in touch with the various social problems that plague the majority of young South Africans.
“When I finished my junior degree, I was part of a generation of young people who felt that it was our responsibility to change the lives of South Africans,” Matlhape explains. “I identified two areas of serious disadvantage for black people in particular. These were social services, including education and social care (health, welfare, etc.) and justice. My interest was always on contributing to uplifting the ‘underdog’ and in those days, as it is today the marginalised were black people, women and young people. I chose social service as my own way of fighting injustice.”
Though the HIV/Aids field is plagued by various stereotypes regarding gender, sex and sexuality, Matlhape has represented the organisation with out letting this have an impact on her or the organisation. She has represented loveLife on many forums and in doing so has reshaped perceptions around the organisation, positioning loveLife as the largest HIV prevention campaign in South Africa and abroad.
Matlhape has been instrumental in maintaining a strong volunteer following of 7 490 active youth who implement these programmes, making loveLife the largest HIV prevention campaign in the world targeting young people.
loveLife’s activities include motivational and healthy sexuality programmes in 4,200 schools and close to 200 community-based organisations; development of 6,000 young leaders a year (groundBREAKERS and mpintshis); the loveLife Games national school sports programme with 400,000 participants; toll free helplines for parents and young people that answer over a million calls a year; support for a network of 500 goGogetters – grandmothers who champion the well-being and safety of 5,000 orphans and vulnerable children; and a multi-media campaign through television, radio, print and mobile social networking (www.mymsta.mobi). A national evaluation conducted in 2003 found that young people who participated in loveLife’s face-to-face programmes had a substantially lower prevalence of HIV. Since 2004, the national prevalence of HIV among teenagers has shown a decline, and loveLife’s goal is to continue to accelerate the reduction of HIV among young people.
The outgoing CEO, Dr David Harrison, plans to develop a leadership-with-opportunity programme for ex-groundBREAKERS and mpintshis to capitalise on the incredible youth talent that loveLife has discovered in marginalised communities across South Africa.
ABOUT LOVE LIFE:
loveLife promotes healthy, HIV-free living among South African teenagers. Organised under the auspices of the loveLife Trust, loveLife combines a sustained high-powered multi-media campaign with nationwide community-level outreach and support programmes for youth. loveLife’s programmes are implemented by a national youth volunteer service corps known as groundBREAKERS in partnership with more than 150 community-based non-government organisations, 3700 schools and 350 government clinics across South Africa. Major funding for loveLife is provided by the South African Government and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by Barloworld, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BMW, Cellsmart Technologies, ChangeWright Consulting, DED (German Development Service), Dewey & Le Boeuf, IBM, Independent Newspapers, Jumpstart, Mondi, Murray & Roberts, Rapport, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Institute for Entrepreneurship, Southern Sun, Ster-Kinekor and the Vodacom Foundation.
For information visit www.lovelife.org.za or call 0800 121 900.