Category Archives: Responding to HIV/AIDS: Thinking through the issues

Another reason why Tariro strives to empower girls and women!

Today I  share with you an article by Jackie Mbaiwa Makuvatsine, who writes for the NewsDay in Zimbabwe, the article was published in the NewsDay of 29 July 2015 and is published here with full permission from the newspaper…

DSCF3499 (2015_03_11 23_19_10 UTC)                                                     Full of hope: Tariro girls!

DRESSED in cream blazers with different ribbon colours at the arms and collars, the Junior Parliament members in Zimbabwe look superb and determined. These youngsters look to the future with curiosity and fortitude; it looks so bright they do not dream of anything deterring them.

News about adolescent girls in Zimbabwe has been reported to a large extent recently, after prosecutor-general Johannes Tomana revealed what is in the Zimbabwean constitution, which women and a large chunk of the populace did not know, that 12-year-olds can consent to sex.

This did not go down well with women and girls’ organisations and they called for the ouster of the prosecutor-general.

This has also exposed how active adolescent girls are in sexual activities; this is in contrast to the country’s culture which expects girls to abstain from sexual activities till they are married.

Experts have cited that when comparing rural and urban girls, those living in the rural areas are twice as much affected by teenage pregnancies as statistics show that 144 per 1 000 girls in rural areas fall pregnant as compared to 70 per 1 000 urban girls.

There were reports late last year of a sharp increase in teenage pregnancy with “92% of all sexually active girls aged 15 to 19 being in some form of a marriage”, due to cultural or religious norms.

Statistics obtained from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Zimbabwe indicate that child pregnancy for the past five years has sharply increased with most pregnancies being recorded in rural areas.

To reduce the increase of child pregnancies, a representative from UNFPA said: “As UNFPA we advocate for delayed sexual debut for young people and continued availing of the right set of information, skills and services to allow young people to make health and informed sexual and reproductive health choices to enable them to realise their potential in life.”

Teenage pregnancy is a serious issue that may seriously impact the future of a young woman. Any teen pregnancy will be a challenge as teens typically lack skills needed to handle a pregnancy and motherhood.

A teen pregnancy may also impact the baby. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading national public health institute of the United States, notes that babies born to teens may have weaker intellectual development and lower skill set scores at kindergarten. They may also have ongoing medical issues and behavioural issues.

Education may be put on hold when a teen becomes pregnant. Some pregnant teens may decide to leave high school. Others who were planning to attend college in the future may put off that experience after becoming pregnant. They may decide to focus on the baby or getting married rather than pursuing further education.

Uncertainty about the future may arise when a teen is pregnant. A teen may feel she does not have enough knowledge to be a mother. She may also have fears about how having a baby will impact her own life and dreams for the future.

Once their baby is born, teenagers may not be willing or able to give it the undivided attention it needs. A teen may not be an adequate mother because she is overwhelmed by the constant needs of the baby. She may grow annoyed at the lack of freedom to interact with her peer group due to the baby.

Financial difficulty may arise during a teen pregnancy or after the baby is born. It is expensive to raise a baby. Teens who do not have full-time employment may struggle to cover the basic expenses of life upon having a baby.

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Life Skills workshop for Tariro Beneficiaries

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Posing for a photo: Tariro staff and beneficiaries alongside TYDA facilitators

 

 

Tariro recently held a life skill workshop to complement the current support that we have for our beneficiaries. As you might be aware, Tariro’s beneficiaries’ backgrounds are mostly characterized by poverty and family instability/dysfunction. This situation is also compounded by limited resources both at home and at school. This situation leaves most of them in danger of failing not only academically but socially and economically as well.

Held in conjunction with Transformative Youth Development Association (TYDA), a local school based organization for youth empowerment, the workshop aimed to equip our beneficiaries with an adaptive and positive behavior that will enable them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. We had facilitators touching on decision-making, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, self-awareness, assertiveness, HIV/AIDS among other issues.

The beneficiaries particularly enjoyed the participatory approach that the workshop took. There were  lots of fun activities designed to engage the beneficiaries. As one of our beneficiaries, Bertha M, put it “…I now have greater self-esteem and self-confidence.”

At Tariro, we strongly believe in the moulding of a wholesome individual with both academic and social competencies!

Below are some photos from the workshop;

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A beneficiary participates in a lesson on “Decision making”

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A section of beneficiaries engrossed with the proceedings. 

 

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Gillian ( with white-blood-cell tag) pushes Brenda in a demonstration of how white blood cells fend off infections during a lesson on HIV/AIDS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 000 drop out of school in 2013 alone!

Last week the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education released a report with which had disturbing figure of school drop outs in 2013 Zimbabwe. While the official figure of 13000 may be lower than the “actual” figures it is quite disheartening to note the major reasons and the gender of those dropping out. Below are some of the disturbing facts;

  1. More than 13 000 primary and secondary school pupils dropped out of school in 2013 owing to early marriages and lack of school fees,
  2. About 52 percent of secondary school drop-outs were females, and 40 percent of all primary school pupils who failed to proceed with their education were also females.
  1. At secondary level 2 289 dropped out of school comprising 1 063 females and 1 226 males because of school fees, while 1 191 failed to continue because of marriages, with 801 of them being females and 390 males. Absconded has 901, while pregnancy has a total of 856 drop-outs.
  1. At primary level, 2 784 dropped out because of school fees consisting of 1 646 males and 1 138 females followed by absconded, which consists of 591 males and 440 females. Death and unknown reasons have 525 and 625 respectively
  2. Only157 in every 1 000 pupils successfully progress from Form 1 to Upper 6, which is down from 168 calculated from 2012. The increased number of school drop-outs comes as the ministry is grappling with a huge number of children failing to access the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) [a government initiative meant to assist poor children with school fees] in the payment of fees.
  3. There are over one million orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe in need of assistance.

Children who are supposed to be in school: Image courtesy of speechlog.com

This is the reason why we at Tariro exert ourselves to educate orphaned and vulnerable girls. We believe our ‘small’, yet tangible steps are a vital cog in the wheel of social change. Our range of services are meant to be the much needed cushion to the worn out social safety net.

Tariro founder’s insightful post on Ethnomusicology website.

This week we share a post by Tariro’s founder Jennifer Kyker on the ethnomusicology website. We get to see why sound matters in the fight to empower women in the face of HIV/AIDS and other challenges.

http://www.ethnomusicology.org/blogpost/1002374/Sound-Matters-The-SEM-Blog

A must read for those of you interested in Tariro, traditional music and the upliftment of the girl child.

World AIDS Day 2012: What Happened to AIDS?

Today is World AIDS Day, yet you won’t find a story about HIV/AIDS on the front page of the New York Times. In face, aside from the occasional red ribbon posted in solidarity as a profile photo on Facebook, it seems that HIV/AIDS is simply no longer news. After all, the disease has shifted from being a terminal disease to a chronic illness for most people living with HIV in the world’s industrialized nations,  doctors have managed to completely cure AIDS in the case of one extraordinary patient, and the disease can now be successfully be prevented by having HIV-negative people take daily anti-retroviral drugs as a form of “pre-exposure prophylaxis.

From the perspective of a comfortable kitchen table in South Philadelphia, where I sit typing this post during a break from attending an annual conference of the African Studies Association, AIDS no longer seems a deadly threat, no longer a cause for the type of radical action undertaken by organizations such as ACT-UP in the early days of the epidemic. Do we even still need a World AIDS Day?

The somewhat surprising answer to that question lies far from a kitchen table in Philadelphia, or the front page of the New York Times. We find it only on the front lines of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, in the slums of Kibera, in the drug treatment clinics of Kabul,in the crowded hospitals of Brazil. Here, we begin to see a different face of HIV/AIDS, one defined by crippling levels of poverty, high levels of gender and income inequality, and their associated barriers to adequate prevention and treatment options.

In fact, AIDS cases continue to rise dramatically in many places, including some of the world’s most populous nations such as China, challenging global prevention efforts.  On the African continent, which has born the vast majority of the burden of HIV/AIDS, gains in prevention and treatment efforts made by countries such as Uganda have recently been eroded, reversing decades of success. And even in countries where AIDS rates have declined, such as Zimbabwe, recent scholarship suggests that this decline is tied not only to successful prevention efforts, but also to mortality rates.  In other words, many of the Zimbabweans previously counted as people living with HIV have simply died.

Even as the disease continues to expand into a growing, global pandemic, however, funding for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS has declined shockingly, jeopardizing many of the gains made over the past decades. As a result, the World AIDS Campaign reports that

after years of international investment, just when we seem to have the right technologies, drugs, and approaches to keep the epidemic under control, success hangs in the balance.

Even in the United States, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, AIDS patients living in states like Florida are denied adequate treatment, receiving life-saving anti-retroviral drugs only once their immune systems are already severely compromised.

For the 34 million people living with HIV around the world, the 16 million children orphaned by the epidemic, and the many millions more at risk of contracting HIV, reductions in funding are not simply academic: they are a question of life or death. On World AIDS Day 2012, we at Tariro urge you not to forget that the fight against HIV/AIDS has not yet been won. To the contrary, a long, hard road still lies ahead.  Given the recent decline in funding, your donations to organizations working in HIV prevention and treatment are more important than ever.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day, and as we enter the holiday giving season, we therefore ask you to give.  Give to a local AIDS clinic, such as AIDS Care Rochester. Give to The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Give to Tariro. Working together, we can continue to ensure that HIV/AIDS remains a global health priority. Together, we can ensure that treatment and prevention options continue to be available to the 99%, not only the 1%. Together, we can continue to make progress in the fight against AIDS.

Hope for a second chance

Teenaged mother Rachel M. has returned to school with Tariro’s support

Working with girls: the challenge of teenaged pregnancy

Today, I’d like to share with you a story that is unusual in Tariro’s history.  In previous posts, I’ve talked about the importance of acknowledging the challenges and limitations of development work, as well as celebrating our successes.  In Zimbabwe, Tariro has faced one ongoing challenge in particular- that of preventing teenaged pregnancies in a conservative social environment where unmarried women are generally prohibited from discussing or learning about birth control.

While the majority of our students finish their O and A levels without falling pregnant, we estimate the one out of every twenty-five girls either drops of our program upon falling pregnant, or writes their O level exams pregnant, significantly affecting their exam scores.  Girls who fall pregnant rarely return to school, in contrast to their male counterparts, who are more frequently permitted to complete their education even after fathering a child.

While roughly only 4% of Tariro students will become teenaged mothers, we still feel that this is too high!  In response, Tariro’s program coordinator Fadzie worked with undergraduate student researcher Laura Tolosa-Leiva from Mount Holyoke College this past December, in order to figure out why girls seems to be at particular risk of becoming pregnant during the last year of high school, as well as what we can do to reduce their risk.  In my next post, I will share an excerpt from her work.

Hope for a second chance: Rachel’s story

Today, though, I’d like to share with you the remarkable story of Rachel M., who is the first Tariro student to successfully return to school after falling pregnant during the year of her O level exams.  When I first met Rachel, in 2008, she was one of our most promising students, with exceptionally high grades.  Quiet, respectful, and studious, she was also a particularly talented dancer and musician, participating actively in our music and dance ensemble.  In fact, Rachel often seemed to be the best and most dedicated at whatever she did, from embroidery lessons to attending church.

Rachel is one of Tariro’s most talented traditional dancers

Given her outstanding performance both in and out of school, we were all shocked and disappointed when Rachel became pregnant shortly before she was scheduled to write her O level exams in 2010.  Now married, Rachel has been a stay-at-home mom for the past two years.  This year, however, she approached Fadzie to see whether there was any possibility that she could re-enroll in school.  Rachel is the first Tariro student to express an interest in finishing her education after having a child, and given her academic potential, we were pleased to offer her a second chance.  Now attending Success Academy, Rachel is re-enrolled in Form 3, and is preparing to write her O level exams next year.

We are proud of Rachel’s determination to finish her education despite becoming a teenaged mother, and we’ll keep you updated on her progress over the next few years.  Development work offers no firm promises, and we can’t guarantee that Rachel will overcome the many obstacles to passing her O levels and proceeding on to A level study.  However, her story offers an important ray of hope, and the unusual opportunity for one Zimbabwean girl to have a second chance at a better life.

I’ll leave you with an autobiography, written by Rachel in May 2008, when she first joined Tariro.

Myself

In this world everybody has a self.  Even animals have selves too.  Some people are tall, some are born crippled and some are beautiful on their faces but inside their hearts you don’t know what they are like.  Here is what I’m going to tell you about myself.

My name is Rachel M. and I am a girl aged 14. I was born on the 24th of August in 1993 at Edith Opperman Maternity Unit in Harare.  I live in Western Triangle in Highfields in Harare with my family.

I live with my mother and we are four children. My father died on the 3rd of October in 2007 after a short illness.  I am the second born and I come from Murehwa in Chikwaka village.  My totem is heart and I come from a tribe called Mutizhe. I am brown in complexion, black hair, I am not very tall and not slim or fat I am at a medium size. I go to Highfield High 1 school and I enjoy school very much.  My best friend is Faith K., we like reading and watching t.v. I don’t like friends who have bad manners, cruel to other people, who do all the bad things, who don’t know God and friend who don’t like school.  My favourite subjects are Accounts, Maths, English, Geography and History. My hobbies are reading stories and novels, writing, watching the television and hanging out with Faith.

At school I play tennis, basketball and I also like hockey and swimming although we don’t have such sports at school.  I also like playing marimba and dancing traditional dances. I like these dances because they remind me of my father. He liked traditional music and he also liked rural things. My favourite musicians are Shingisai Solumo and Celine Dion.

I like eating rice, chicken, fresh chips, ice cream, sadza, okra, vegetables and sweet potatoes. When I am at the rural areas I like eating sadza, beef, vegetables and okra. I like to wear clothes and shoes which match and fit me. My favourite colours are pink, baby blue, red, luminous green, yellow, white, peach, apple green and all the colours which are light colours and not dark.  My dream countries are Canada, USA, UK, Korea and Japan.

When I grow up I want to be an Accountant, to be a fashion designer, to help people who are in need and to do many good things if God helps me in my life. I love myself very much.

Reflecting on Rachel’s story…

Rachel’s story paints the picture of an average teenaged girl, whose father’s sudden death threw a stable family into significant financial as well as social distress. I’m so pleased that she has made the courageous choice to return to school.  Rachel, we love you too!

Looking towards the future: How to act now

"Researchers warn of hard choices ahead and a need for some countries to take more responsibility for their national programmes."

This weeks blog post is the last part of a three-part blog post written by Tariro’s intern Megan Bauer. The first post discussed the history of HIV/AIDS, the second looked at the various groups who have been accused of spreading HIV throughout time, and this last post is going to discuss how to take this information and act on it now.

Making solutions, not problems:

Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic there has been blame. Various groups throughout time have been accused of causing and spreading AIDS and these same groups as well as new ones continue to be blamed today. What problem does blame solve? It offers no solutions or answers, it only creates anger and hostility against the groups who have been given that burden of blame.

There are books, websites, and studies dedicated to researching and proving who had the initial case of AIDS and who is to blame for spreading it. There are tons of resources that could be used for making a better future, but instead they live in the past. Education about what HIV is and how to prevent is it important, but why continue looking for an answer to a question that will never be found? Even with extensive research, we will never know what group had the first case of AIDS, and how does that information really matter?

What benefit do we get out of living in the past? We are simply creating more problems and leaving less solutions by focusing on who caused it. Instead we should be looking towards the future and finding a cure for this epidemic that has now been plaguing people’s lives for 30 years.

Focusing on the future:

We need to take all of our resources and reroute them to focus on finding a cure and helping those in need. With more research focused towards finding a cure, we can be that much closer to a solution. If people let down their guards and take away the anger and hostility, we can work toward helping others who are struggling, and put more energy towards preventing HIV from being spread. It isn’t important where it came from, but how we handle it and solve it now.

The question never should have been who caused it, but how can we fix it.

Thank you readers:

I hope that you enjoyed and took interest in this three-part blog piece. All of these thoughts and ideas had been going on in my head for a while and it was great to able to share them with you. I hope that the history of HIV/AIDS may have offered some clarity, that the accusations post offered some recognition, and that this post offered some motivation to make a change.