HIV/AIDS

Written by Miles Tanhira, Information & Communications Officer at GALZ, Zimbabwe Therefore i will not keep silent.I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, i will complain in the bitterness of my soul (JOB 7 vs 11)
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This needs assessment is part of the JASS-Southern Africa Movement Building Initiative (MBI). The initiative is implemented in the African context where the combination of increasing poverty, failed states, corruption and in particular HIV and AIDS have had a particular impact on the lives of women.
Public taxis are a nightmare, the screaming and rude conductors, the cursing drivers and the vulnerable passengers. Normally I don’t pay particular attention to other passengers in these dilapidated taxis, but what I witnessed today left me with more questions than answers. I tried so hard to fight back tears as I felt a pang of pain which like a hot ball ran up and down my throat. I could have said or done something but I was weakened by sadness and anger at the same time.
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JASS’ Malawi Movement Building Initiative – Amayi Tadzuka! Women Awake! –launched in February 2009 with three workshops in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, and Blantyre. Then, at the end of 2009, a national workshop consolidated the transformative process with district-level leaders from February, together with their national-level coordinators.
JASS launched movement-building in Zambia through broad-based consultation and assessment. Dialogue with diverse groups and leaders revealed that, despite its strong history in this country, women’s rights organizing seems demobilized in recent years, fragmented by competing issue agendas.
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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.
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Some of us wore expressions of a most unprofessional glee as Victoria, one of the women at the workshop, a teacher by profession, made us smile by sharing a story of how she has been using also the training acquired in the last JASS workshop to ‘disorganize’ her church. She demanded to talk about HIV and AIDS, thus ending the culture of silence and stigma regarding the subject. We used her story to invite the other participants to share their own experiences.
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Women living with HIV who are leaders in the AIDS movement in their communities in Malawi came together for the start of a four-day workshop organized by JASS. They started by creating startling and beautiful body maps. They did it without any artists to help. In groups of five, the women started by outlining their bodies on large sheets of paper. Each woman was drawn by the other women in the group. People stayed in their small groups to do this, sharing magic markers and other art materials. Through a series of imaginative exercises they added parts to the outline of their bodies.
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Our lives are written on our bodies. Sisters!
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The JASS team held movement building workshops in three regions of Malawi. Each workshop convened 20 grassroots activists living with and working on HIV/AIDS to share experiences, support each other, discuss and dramatize power dynamics and strengthen their organizing strategies. "...Almost every woman who attends the workshops talks about the disruption of her life by HIV and AIDS but they also share stories of rebellion (crossing the line) and coming to terms with defying the cultural norms..." reflects Hope Chigudu (JASS team).
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