Meet Bobbi Bear innovator

2015-09-02 06:00
Bobbi Bear’s Jackie Branfield.
Photo: supplied

Bobbi Bear’s Jackie Branfield. Photo: supplied

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OPERATION Bobbi Bear innovator, Jackie Branfield was born in former Rhodesia, Bulawayo­. She emigrated to Toti about 35 years ago. Known as the lady who loves to wear red stilettos, her life motto is “life is far too short to be taken seriously and wear ugly shoes”.

“The organisation originated in 1994. The majority of women in our country had fought for freedom and rights, but the rights for women were still not established in our Constitution. In 1994, the poorest women and women of colour knew they had fought and died for the rights of women, but a lot did not know what their rights were,” Branfield said.

“If they did know what their rights were, there was nowhere to go to claim them. At the same time HIV/Aids was impacting society in the most horrific way. There were no rights of people living with Aids, no protocol, no medication and no facilities. “I then had started what has come to be known as the Tree Clinic in Illovo. It started as a democracy development programme, to attract female activists and change the law and also address HIV and the fight for rights for those with HIV. We marched and did whatever it took,” Branfield said.

At the Tree Clinic, she discovered a lot of children from six to nine had full-blown Aids. In that day and age, with no treatment, if the child contracted from mothers, children did not live past the age of five.

“Then it occurred to me that blood infection is main way of contracting Aids. I then realised I had to find a way for children to tell me in any language how they contracted Aids and we created Bobbi Bear.”

The biggest challenges were that nobody knew much about the disease, there was nothing available for HIV, women’s rights had not been defined and we needed money, so I had to ask my husband,” Branfield said.

Since then one of Bobbi Bear’s biggest challenges is funding, and staff burn-out. “But the Toti community has always supported us and we are thankful,” she said.

“Bobbi Bear has the most incredible team of women, some of whom have worked with me since 1994. I would like to thank Eureka Olivier for her tireless dedication because without her Bobbi Bear would not be the same.

She said Jesus Christ and the compassion and dedication of the women who work for Bobbi Bear, motivates her.

“My vision is to eventually find the money to tweak our training programme to pass through Seta and to raise funds to enable us to train people in rural areas, peri-urban areas and other areas we can’t get to, and to also build satellite Bobbi Bears in other places­.”

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