This morning, the women left. We had a great time but also experienced some Oh! moments. A young woman, six months pregnant, fell really sick. The truth is she came to the workshop sick. Most of the women we were with earlier this year look extremely wasted now. Part of the reason is that they are malnourished. Malawi is expensive. To remain connected on the internet for a week is almost US $ 100.
This morning I had breakfast with a young woman in her 20s. She told me how she was married off by her grandparents, at the age of 17, following the death of her parents, who both died of AIDS. She is HIV positive herself. Her husband, who infected her, abandoned her with her now five-year-old baby. She is taking care of her child, her siblings, and her sister’s HIV positive baby. She narrated her story and both of us nearly choked on our breakfast.
As women continue to waste, they also continue to cross boundaries. JASS workshops, such as this one, embody the budding connections, and sisterhood among women living with HIV and AIDS, who come from all over Malawi. They symbolize the beginnings of a whisper, a rustle, a flame that will build into a stronger movement of women living with HIV/AIDS, and a strengthened sisterhood.
As the women received their JASS t-shirts yesterday, and as they danced, they were aware that the struggle had begun. But this time, instead of standing alone, they were moving towards change as a collective.
Part four of a four part series. First part – I Am My Sister’s Keeper!