ISCHP members support the Bophelo House 94

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All photos taken by Daygan Eager, Section 27, and used with permission – thanks Daygan!

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During the ISCHP’s recent conference at Rhodes University, South Africa, members of ISCHP at the AGM decided to send a message of support to the Bophelo House 94, a group of 94 health care workers who in 2014 held a peaceful all-night vigil to protest poor health services in South Africa’s Free State province, and their own contract termination, at the province’s health department headquarters, Bophelo House. The health care workers, mostly older women, were arrested and held in jail for 36 hours. Later, they were charged with attending an illegal gathering, and pleaded not guilty. They must now attend court several times, far from their homes, and stay in the city during such periods.

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ISCHP members sent   the  message of solidarity below, written by myself and, on behalf of the Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27, a law and social justice centre, which are both working with the women, Daygan Eager. Members also offered to donate personally to support the Bophelo House 94’s court attendances through the Treatment Action Campaign.

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If anyone else wants to support this campaign, please go to this link, where you can also indicate the issue for which you are donating: http://TAC.org.za/donate  .BH3

In addition to the solidarity message, a fuller account of the case, with links for further reading, are below.

Thanks in advance – and please get back to me if you have any questions.

Corinne Squire (c.squire@uel.ac.uk ) and Daygan Eager (on behalf of TAC)

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Message of solidarity

Members of the International Society for Critical Health Psychology, coming from more than twelve countries, and present at the Society’s Annual General Meeting held at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, on July 14, 2015, send greetings and support to the Bophelo House 94. Members of the society have heard about your campaign, and would like to wish you a speedy and successful resolution. We will also be donating personally to help support your court attendance in September.

In solidarity,
Members of the ISCHP at the AGM, 2015

Message to the ISCHP AGM

Dear ISCHP AGM participants,
The Bophelo House 94 are 94 Community Health Workers (CHWs) and activists accused of attending an illegal gathering, after they demonstrated against the termination of their contracts with no notice, and against poor health services in the province of the Free State, on July 10 2014. Their peaceful, legal demonstration, an all-night vigil at Bophelo House, the Head Office of the provincial (Free State) Department of Health, in Bloemfontein, led to their arrest. The CWHs and supporting activists were detained for 36 hours in harsh conditions and without access to medications they needed for HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension. 94 CHWs pleaded not guilty. They have had to appear in court several times, most recently last week, and will need to return to court in September 2015.

CHWs in the Free State are currently unemployed. CHWs in South Africa are mainly women, often elderly women, who work for low pay, usually on temporary contracts and with no benefits. Many provide home-based health care, doing physically and emotionally demanding work that requires many skills; often, CHWs have decades of experience.

Before their peaceful protest, the Bophelo House 94 had tried many times to have meetings and dialogue with the Free State Minister of Health and Premier about their own situation and about the general difficulties of the health system within the province.

The Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27, a public interest law centre acting for social justice, are supporting the Bophelo House 94’s case, calling for all charges to be dropped and for all the CHWs to be re-employed, and legal support is in place.

We would like to ask you to send a message of solidarity to the ‘Bophelo House 94’ and if possible, to donate to help them with the expenses of travel, often from considerable distances, to attend court in September, and to stay in Bloemfontein during the period they need to be available. Donations can be given through the TAC website: http://TAC.org.za/donate where you can also indicate the campaign for which you are donating. We will also be able to send a message of support via TAC, the organisation through which support for the Bophelo House 94 is being organised.

Thanks very much for your help,

Daygan Eager (on behalf of TAC and Section 27) and Corinne Squire

Further reading:

http://section27.org.za/2015/07/frontline-free-state/

http://www.tac.org.za/news/media-alert-free-state-health-system-trial

http://allafrica.com/stories/201503301926.html

http://www.health-e.org.za/2014/09/02/free-state-activists-health-worker-case-postponed/

http://section27.org.za/2014/07/tac-statement-after-36-hours-in-jail-all-127-activists-have-been-released-on-warning/

http://section27.org.za/2014/07/tac-press-statement-police-arrest-over-100-community-health-workers-and-activists-staging-peaceful-night-vigil-outside-free-state-health-mecs-office/

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