By: Lindsey Taylor Wood, Communications Associate at Women Deliver
Nearly 730,000 women are living with HIV in Tanzania. Among them is 61-year
“I learnt that you need money or a business to generate enough income to be able to travel to town for regular check-ups and to collect antiretroviral drugs. We do not have these services at our village dispensary,” said Faith.
The program was launched in 2009, by the International Labour Organization, a tripartite United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programs promoting ‘Decent Work for All,’ and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, an organization that works to reduce poverty and improve living conditions. Centered on facilitating cooperatives that can help reach workers in the “informal economy,” the program aims to prevent HIV, mollify its impact and lead to better conditions for workers affected by or living with the virus. As a result, it is a welcome advancement in a country where the national HIV prevalence is roughly 5.6%.
In the northern Kilimanjaro region, where Faith lives, her SIYB program functions as a dairy cooperative; which also utilizes the village community bank in order to provide financial services like savings and credit. Living in a remote area, these services, in addition to the HIV programs, have been particularly beneficial to Faith; a widow and mother of five. After testing positive for HIV in 2005, she took an unconventional approach and was forthcoming about her condition. In a place where the cultural aversion to HIV is high, this was not an easy decision.
Through the cooperative, Faith acquired three dairy cows and brought home US$250 a month by selling their milk. Consequently, she started a farm and was able to diversify her income: a variety of vegetables, in addition, to the milk. “It is a lot of money for me,” she says. “The cooperative trained me and provided a market for my cow’s milk... I get all the nutritious food recommended by doctors from my own farm. I use part of the money to pay for school fees for my two nieces.”
Two years into the program, Faith has also taken on the role of peer educator, mentoring other HIV-positive people looking to initiate business ventures. Her role as a teacher, and an investor in her neices' schooling, will produce far-reaching benefits. Education has as immediate effect on overall health outcomes; especially, regarding adolescents and sexual and reproductive rights and maternal health. UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Tanzania, Dr. Luc Barriere-Constantin, also believes that this type of engagement is significant in improving the livelihood of the HIV-positive population: “It is essential to re-build the capacities of people living with HIV through the restoration of self-confidence and hope. To do that we don’t necessarily need millions of dollars, but simply to be convinced, and to convince those living with the virus, that they can make a valuable contribution. This project shows it is possible.”
Flickr photo by: mar is sea Y