Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fighting HIV/AIDS stigma

Reported by: James Masauko
Written by: Krystle Praestiin

Speaking out against stigma & discrimination
HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination viciously attaches itself to People Living with HIV/AIDS causing added grief and pain. Stigma and discrimination are rooted in misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge and it manifests itself in many ways including: being denied care during sickness, social exclusion, people being afraid to shake hands or share kitchen utensils, and even being denied employment.

ADRA Malawi through advocacy initiatives and strong partnerships is continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination- an issue that became vastly apparent to ADRA staff during numerous community dialogue sessions held in July.

A crowd gathers to watch a Drama protraying HIV/AIDs issues
We are partnering with key community leaders such as: the District Health Office, the District Assembly, Area Development Committees, Village Development Committees, and health experts to raise awareness on issues like stigma, to address knowledge gaps and to promote the rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Currently, we are working in 25 Group Village Heads (GVHs) divided into 7 zones  and have been conducting community meetings, traditional dances, dramas, talks and video screenings. Our messages are about HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, the importance of testing, and disclosing a person’s status, as well as, the effects of stigma and human rights. We also have brought mobile HIV testing “clinics” to the communities far from local health facilities.

Mobile HIV testing Clinic
With these messages, ADRA Malawi wants people to no longer fear getting HIV tests or fear telling people they are HIV positive because fearing these two things is preventing people from getting help and it is also fuelling the spread of HIV.

In addition, our main aim is to reverse stories like the one about a woman from Group Village Head Chambala, who after 2 months of Anti-Retroviral Treatments was forced to stop because she was too sick to collect them herself, and no family member or friend was willing to collect them for her. Their misconceptions, stigma and fears prevented them from caring for their own family.

Group Counselling session

Sadly, this is just one story of many. Through awareness raising, knowledge gap bridging and human rights promotion ADRA Malawi wants to encourage people to fight stigma by respecting the rights and needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The good news is that since the commencement of these activities many people are now aware of HIV/AIDS issues including stigma and discrimination. We hope an impact will be realised as we go on working with different CBGs and stakeholders.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Goats are changing lives

Written by Krystle Praestiin, ADRA Malawi Intern

Emily with one of her goats
When Emily and her four children met ADRA Malawi’s WEP2 (Women Empowerment Project Phase 2) staff she had just left her abusive husband after a violent clash caused her to miscarriage.

At the time the now completed WEP2 project was implementing a goat bank program. Emily was identified by her community as a woman in need of help so she received one goat from ADRA. (Goats in Malawi are very valuable because they provide families with security and income as they continue to reproduce.)

Emily also became an active member of other programs that ADRA was introducing to her village including: joining a Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group, Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) class and an energy saving stoves making group.

Since her involvement Emily has reared several goats and currently has five. Emily plans to sell a few of her goats to help her put iron sheets on her newly built house- for which she sold 2 goats. Her involvement in the VSL group and her ability to sell goats has helped her provide her family with basic needs like: clothing, school fees, school stationary, hygiene products and food. 
Emily with her familiy outside her new home

Being part of the VSL group has also provided her with income to start a small business selling drinks which also contributes to her ability to take care of her family and aging mother. Emily hopes that as ADRA continues working in her village through its new project (Enhanced Livelihoods through Gender Empowerment) that she will be able to receive some business management training so she can develop a more viable business in the future.

Emily is a role model to her community. Through her hard work in rearing goats and actively participating in development activities she shows people the benefits that come from her involvement.

At home her family has confidence in her ability to care for them and they are proud of her achievements. They are also encouraged to work hard because they have learnt that hard work makes anything possible. Emily is no longer afraid and worried because she knows where to go to get money for help. Emily also looks at life differently because all that she has learnt has given her a hope for the future.
Emily & her goats

Learning to read, write and do basic sums for example, has increased her confidence and skill levels. Emily can now read basic sentences, keep records for her business and of her transactions in the VSL groups. Her involvement in Functional Adult Literacy Classes has taught her the value of education and she does all she can to encourage her children to continue in their studies because she wants them to have a chance at succeeding in life

Her education has also allowed her to become a trainer of trainers for other women interested in being involved in VSL groups, this will ensure that more women like her will be able to benefit from this program well after ADRA Malawi has left. It is our hope that stories like hers will become common place.