The Social Activist


Social Awareness

Gerry Elsdon is an international humanitarian, activist, and outspoken voice on issues of women’s empowerment, community regeneration, wellbeing, and their impact on women and children in Africa.

She is actively working with organisations both at home and abroad to change the plight of our children, people living with tuberculosis, and health and wellness.

She has undertaken speaking engagements internationally at the invitation of the UN, UNAID, UNCTAD, The World Health Organisation, IFRC on behalf of the South African people, and Global Communities in plight. She also uses her public profile as a celebrity to get involved in as many social projects as possible. She has assisted as an Aids Ambassador for the President’s Office and frequently helps organisations like CHOC and the Othandweni Children’s Home. In 2008, she became the spokesperson for the World Health Organisation’s South African STOP TB Campaign.

She speaks openly to the issues plaguing our communities and the humanitarian challenges that we must overcome with a motivational and inspirational voice of someone unafraid to work toward positive change.

IFRC Goodwill Ambassador Gerry Elsdon

Gerry Elsdon is a media personality and celebrity in South Africa where she has had a successful career as a media and public relations personality, as well as a TV presenter. She was also the beautiful face of LUX, personal care company. Her popularity increased when she started hosting the African version of the popular reality show “Big Brother”. It was at this very moment that she suddenly fell ill. It was at the height of the success of this hit show she was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). The first thing Gerry had to do was to locate a TB clinic in her district so she could start her six-month treatment. Then she realised that even though it was only five minutes from her home in an upper class neighbourhood, she had never heard of it since it was located in such a remote place. It was also at this time that she realised that TB was a disease that authorities would rather hide. Being confronted with the stigma associated with TB, especially in a country like South Africa where co-infection is frequent and some people suffering from TB are also infected with HIV, had a significant impact on her life.

TV’s glamour girl battles TB

When her TB status became public, there were many rumours in the press that she was also living with HIV. But because Gerry was no ordinary TB patient but also a celebrity, she was asked to be on the cover of a popular women’s magazine with the headline: “The positive face of TB”. This was the turning point for Gerry. She realised that even though she was about to fully recover from the disease, she could not ignore the plight of the thousands of people in her country that were affected by TB. Because they are not celebrities, these people are far more affected by stigma and discrimination, fueling further infection since they mostly live in poorer areas similar to the place Gerry came from originally.

“I grew up in a township near Cape Town”, she remembers. “This was at a place and a time when the work of the Red Cross impacted our lives. This work was crucial and fundamental and it certainly showed me the way. Organisations like the Red Cross create activists just like me”, Gerry adds.

Bringing the message worldwide

Gerry Elsdon plays a key role in different national, regional and international events as Goodwill Ambassador for the IFRC. She is involved in various TB education campaign and partnerships. She has been very present at the Lilly multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB Partnership, an alliance of more than 20 public and private organisations (including the IFRC) that have combined forces to respond to the rapidly growing threat of MDR-TB in Cancun, Mexico in 2009 and Berlin, Germany in 2010 to participate in meetings with members of the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership from around the world. She has also played a key role in the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross Red Crescent of 2011, tackling issues such as inequity in health: every woman and every child counts. She is also one among the 8 National Champions worldwide against TB. Most recently, at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, 55th Session, 16 March 2012,in Vienna, Gerry Elsdon moderated and enriched and IFRC organised side event with her own personal experience. She said: “I have survived tuberculosis, but sadly had to face stigma and discrimination. I fell from glory to oblivion, but my determination and will brought me back to the light. I can only imagine the situation for those drug users who are worse off than I was, which is a good enough reason to motivate me to talk on their behalf.” And for world TB day 2012, Gerry is taking the messages of TB awareness and testing to communities all over South Africa, in a two-week walking campaign called the Hit the Road and Kick TB Walk for Humanity.

Youtube – expressopartners, thinkredSA, StopTB, hello doctor, the Von Vodcasy, Gerry

She heads this company by herself, focusing on:

  • Motivational workshops
  • Networking breakfasts
  • Skills development and training courses
  • Corporate solutions programmes
  • Corporate wellness programmes
  • Celebrity friends workshops