Sunday, May 24, 2009

A mother in Mulanje

“The most important thing is to show your children that you love them, then the rest comes a bit easier,” says 30 year old Grace Chisoso from Naliya village in Mulanje district.

Since her husband died in 2001 she has raised and supported her three children on her own. A task that is never entirely simple, especially because her husband’s relatives took their house and most of their possessions when he died. Grace moved in with her mother and has had to struggle to find money to buy food and clothes for the children.

“Life has been difficult,” Grace reflects on her situation. “There are two things that are difficult. The first thing is raising enough money on my own to look after the kids properly. The second thing is bringing up the children, you know, moulding them, guiding them on how to behave.”

Though her own family have supported her in her struggle, they are not in a position, where they can help her out materially. So when Grace joined the, ADRA initiative, LEFAM (let's fight AIDS in Malawi) farmer group last year it was a big relief. The group has just harvested their maize, and Grace really feels she has benefitted from the project. She has maize enough now - not only for her family but she will be able to sell a bit as well.

Single parents’ choice

Though the family is very poor, Grace is happy about her choice to stay with her children.

“A lot of my friends have advised me to just leave the children with my mother and then go out as a sex worker. But I said no, I will not take that route - it is not the best for my children,” Grace narrates. She says, that most women, who have lost a husband, either opt to get remarried or work as commercial sex workers. ”But you know, if you take that road of commercial sex work, chances of staying alive long enough to raise your children is very slim”

Rather Grace is considering going into the egg business.

Being a single parent is never easy, and in the upbringing of her children she often misses having her husband around.

“Within the family setup you definitely need support from the husband. Sometimes the word from the husband carries more weight than the word from the mother. So it is sometimes difficult.” Her two sons are 11 and 13 now, and often times they could use some fatherly advice but Grace does what she can. She suspects, that it will be easier with her youngest daughter Linda.

Support from the women

It has been tough on Grace to watch how her children suffer from the loss of their father. Especially her eldest son Lawrence, who was 7 when his father passed away, took it hard. “At that age he was aware of what was happening, so it affected him very much. The two others were still quite small but now they are realising that there is no father around,” Grace says.

She talks about how the children are slowly realising that their lives might have been different if their father was still around. ” It affects them, especially when they see their fellow children with their fathers, the love that they get from them. And they only get advice from one side.”

Grace has found support in the, ADRA initiative, LEFAM women’s group that meet every Tuesday to discuss different topics such as domestic violence, voluntary HIV testing or how the community can deal with the growing number of orphans. The possibility to openly discuss the hardships, she is facing, with her fellow women in the village has lifted a burden from her shoulders. “I get a lot of moral support from my family, but the ladies from the women’s club, that is where I get most of the support.” 

Grace Chisoso is also a volunteer Home Based Care provider in her village who helps taking care of aids patients who are feeling very ill.

Author: Lise Grauenkær Jensen - ADRA Denmark

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