Part 4

On Saturday we walked through the village, this time with only a small posse of  children following.  We met with four out of the ten women that made up an HIV Support Group. Before the Pastor and Emmason, all the women were too ashamed to admit or accept their HIV. But after insisting they create a group there are now ten women that meet regularly and share a chicken project.  The village has a very large percentage of HIV/AIDS afflicted persons. As mentioned by the two young women, there is no water, no education, no health care, no food, and an overwhelming need for change. There is however, a large manufacturing plant that employs men and women to break up rocks, which get shipped somewhere else to make concrete. The wage is despicable and the working conditions terrible.  Because of the dire situation, young girls and women are forced to do whatever it takes for money. This comes in handy for the truckers that often pay the girls and/or women for sex. This is how there is such a large percentage of HIV afflicted people in the village.

Back to the HIV Support Group and our meeting. Three years ago they contacted the government, asking for help with an idea they had for a chicken coup. The government gave 5 Million TSH for chickens and to train the women in how to take care of them. Instead of giving them the money to decide how to spend it,  they gave it to the Regional Office, which spent all the money on buying Roosters (not chickens), building a chicken coup, and the remaining on an expensive training seminar that put the money back into their pockets. The corruption in the government is quite apparent here. The women have given up relying on the government for anything. Today, they have around 100 chickens and about 80 chicks. The chicken coup is not used to it's full potential because the women can't afford to feed and water the chickens.  So they divide them up between the ten women, they take however many chickens they can afford to feed. Bottom line, the chickens are not going to make anyone a business or even enough to buy food for themselves. They can sell one egg for 12 cents CND. Even if they had a flourishing chicken coup the people that live in the village don't have any money to support the business. With the money the make from selling eggs as well as their own entrepreneurial endeavors,  they educate children in the village with HIV, take them to doctor's appointments, buy medicine, and have created a club for any children that want to hang out. Each of the woman has a small side business, such as selling porridge, making meals for anyone, etc.  Where there is a will there is a way. With the little money they pull in they somehow manage to help as many others as they can.  These women are commendable on many different levels. HIV is often associated with shame, embarrassment, anger, and confusion in any country in the world. This village is no different. Most people living with HIV stay home, they don't talk about it, they are ashamed of this added burden in their life. But these four women, have stepped outside the box. They strive to educate children about HIV, they want to help other women that are widowed and living with it. With acceptance and patience anything is possible. The next time I complain about anything I will think of these women and what they are capable of.

One of the women was a sight to behold. Six feet tall, heavily endowed, massive feet and hands, and a natural at business and organization. She had kept accounts of money, dates, letters, and documentation of everything over the last three years.  They even have opened a bank account. After the chicken discussion fizzled out she said "I have a good idea". She knows Masai and can rent one acre of land for 200,000 TSH a year. If they could grow onions on this land they would make 1.5 Million TSH ($959 CND) selling the onions to suppliers. Being the savvy business woman she is, she had already calculated all associated costs of pesticides, mosquito nets for the camp, seeds, boots, tools, etc. All expenses amount to $200 CND. Leaving them approximately $610 CND, enough money to rent the land each year and make a huge difference in their community work.

One thing we appreciated, that was different from other experiences, these women were not asking for help or money. They were empowered women that wanted to do it themselves. More interested in acquiring a loan that they could pay back than simply accepting (or expecting) a signed cheque.

Emmason asked if one day we could visit the Masai and see the land. She was so excited "why not right now, let's go today, we can go today I know somebody with a car". It was only 10:00 AM. And our one task of the day was to meet these women.
 


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