Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

Remembering Senzeni within a wider Zimbabwean context

Senzeni jpeg

This photo shows Tariro’s librarian Senzeni Matikiti in 1995.

Today, I want to take a few more minutes to address the recent death of Senzeni Matikiti, Tariro’s beloved librarian. While my first post about Senzeni’s passingwas a more personal reflection on how she became involved in Tariro’s work, I also feel it is important to reflect on how Senzeni’s very early death, at only 35 years old, is part of a much large constellation of issues of health, education, poverty, and social justice – the very issues that Tariro is dedicating to addressing in our work to educate at-risk girls.

Life expectancies in Zimbabwe

When I heard the news that Senzeni had died, I was immediately reminded that her early death was sadly not an unusual event in Zimbabwe, where life expectancy dropped precipitously in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2006, Zimbabwe had the world’s shortest life spans – 34 years for women, and 37 years for men. Recent reports from organizations such as the World Bank suggest that life expectancies have improved in recent years, reaching 60 years for women and 56 years for men. Yet, these numbers are still lower than Zimbabwe’s average life expectancy in the 1980s, suggesting that HIV/AIDS has erased many of the health gains made immediately after independence.

The thinning population pyramid

In the lyrics to his song “Mabasa,” which addresses the ravages of HIV/AIDS, Zimbabwean popular artist Oliver Mtukudzi sings the poignant lines:

The young lead the way (Pwere dzotungamira)
The workers lead the way (Mushandi wotungamira)
Only elderly men and women are left (Sare chembere neharahwa)

Mtukudzi’s lyrics reflect exactly how HIV/AIDS and related diseases have affected the “population pyramid” in countries like Zimbabwe, by hollowing out an entire generation of people in the most productive years of their lives: teachers, farmers, mothers, fathers, nurses, and traders. Let’s take a moment to view some graphics illustrating the devastating social effects of this process.

Normally, developing countries like Zimbabwe have a population pyramid that tapers evenly, from a large base of dependent young people, through a mid-sized group of workers in their productive years, and to a small number of dependent elderly people. The following chart, while illustrates the population pyramid of Mozambique, is an excellent example:

Population pyramid, Mozambique. From the BBC.

Population pyramid, Mozambique. From the BBC.

In Zimbabwe, on the other hand, the population pyramid radically thins out just at the ages of 35-39, as we might expect after the drop in life expectancy over previous decades. While Zimbabwe is located right next to Mozambique, its population pyramid thus looks very different:

Population pyramid, Zimbabwe. From Indexmundi.

Population pyramid, Zimbabwe. From Indexmundi.

The shape of Zimbabwe’s population pyramid reflects the predictions made by scholars interested in demographic changes in countries affected by HIV/AIDS, as you can see in the following illustration, which predicts the relative population of low-income countries affected by HIV/AIDS, represented by the dark shaded area, in comparison with those unaffected by HIV/AIDS, represented by the light shaded area. Note how closely the prediction for countries affected by HIV/AIDS matches Zimbabwe’s actual population pyramid.

Population pyramid model illustrated the effects of HIV/AIDS. www.sarpn.org

Population pyramid model illustrated the effects of HIV/AIDS. http://www.sarpn.org

As people in the prime of their lives are lost to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, the effects are felt not only on an individual, family basis, but throughout society as a whole. Their loss is, in a very real sense, everyone’s loss. When I think back to the invaluable role Senzeni played within Tariro, I think of all the people whom she interacted with in her professional life: our students, their guardians, their teachers and headmasters, our other staff. For each of these people, Senzeni’s death is a narrowing of their professional and social world.

Orphans

Yet, needless to say, the deepest pain of Senzeni’s death is that felt by her two children, Jesse and Tinashe, both of whom are still under the age of 18. Senzeni was an amazing mother: no matter how hard things were, Jesse and Tinashe were always dressed in cleaned, well-ironed clothes, and always had a smile on their faces. It was obviously how much they respected and loved their mom, and no one will ever be able to fill that gap in their lives.

Jesse and Tinashe now join the ranks of almost a million orphans living in Zimbabwe, all of whom have lost either one or both parents. Among these orphans, Jesse and Tinashe are among the most disadvantaged, because they are now “double orphans,” rather than “single orphans” who have lost only one parent.

In a country of only 10-12 million inhabitants, the problems of caring for nearly a million orphaned children should be clearly evident. Who will take them in, feed the, and pay their school fees? Who will be able to spare the extra time to wash and iron their clothes, pack their lunches, and protect them from abuse? And who can muster the extra emotional energy to guide them through the trauma and grief of losing not one, but often multiple family members?

The many pressing needs of Zimbabwe’s orphaned children is precisely the site where Tariro has chosen to intervene in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Instead of institutionalizing orphans, our approach is to strengthen the ability of their extended families to keep them at home and care for them. Your support and generous donations have been essential in enabling us to make this difference.

Tariro’s Executive Director Kenny Magwada recently reported that Senzeni’s children have been taken in by an uncle who lives in Highfield, not far away from where they used to live. This is excellent news, since it will minimize further disruptions to their education. Yet, the road will be very long and difficult for both of them. Tinashe, in particular, was supposed to write his O Level exams this year. So soon after his mother’s death, however, it is likely that he will not pass. And there are no guarantees that they will be able to continue living in the same neighborhood, or with the same relatives, until finishing secondary school. As long as they are still in Highfield, however, Tariro is dedicated to supporting their education in Senzeni’s memory.

Infections and inequalities

Borrowing a phrase from the amazing work of Dr. Paul Farmer, the last point I believe it is important to make is that Senzeni’s death from tuberculosis reflects the way many modern infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and now also ebola, have become diseases of the poor. Relatively rare in developed nations, they have become entrenched in places like Haiti and Guinea, and are also endemic within pockets of institutionalized poverty, including many prison systems.

Yet, as Paul Farmer has long argued, these conditions are not simply private problems; they are public health problems, with important ramifications for all of us. From Russian prisons, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, threatens to spill over into the larger Eastern Eauropean population. From Sierra Leonean districts like Kenema, Ebola eventually reaches Dakar, Madrid, New York City, Dallas, and Kayes. Among these infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS has taken the greatest human toll; it is also implicated in the spread of other opportunistic infections, like TB.

In order to successfully change this dynamic, Farmer argues that we must move away from explanations that rely on dubious assertions about “culture” – the idea that people in Guinea engage in dangerous burial practices, for example – and toward addressing the structural problems that create the conditions for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and Ebola to spread. Foremost among them is, quite simply, poverty.

Once again, it is here that Tariro is participating in creating small, but radical change, since educating women is the single best way to transform poverty. Our mission is one of empowering girls not simply to transcend the problem of infections and inequalities, but to participate in changing the very conditions by which the two become linked. Please join us.

Third and final term begins!

The third and final term of the Zimbabwean academic calendar has started, considered by some as the shortest; it comes as the defining term for most students who will be sitting for their national examinations. We have students in Tariro who will be writing their final examinations this term. Three of them will be writing their grade seven examinations, this examination is a terminal examination for the primary school students, and they will be going to secondary level.

Grade seven candidates

This year it will be Rufaro M, Fadzai M and Noleen C; These girls will be seating for their Grade Seven examinations in October. Fadzai and Rufaro  have, behind them, a satisfactory academic performance and we even featured them in previous blogs for having won academic prizes of excellence. Most of you may now be familiar with Noleen C, a special needs student whom we sponsor. She is is quite excited about writing her final examinations.

Four subjects, Maths, English, an indigenous language , General paper (a combination of natural and social sciences) will be examined at the Grade Seven examinations.

Noleen C at her home in Norton

Noleen C at her home in Norton

We would like to wish our girls all the best as they seek to crossover from primary to secondary education. This is also an opportunity for us to thank those of you who have been assisting us to realize our mission of educating and empowering young women and girls in communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Fadzai displaying a certificate of academic excellence that she was awarded when at the end of her grade 6 year.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing devouring women

Image

Women forced to eating grass at the behest of their pastor. (picture courtesy of Christian Post)

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” This verse from the Bible shouts out aloud as I behold the nefarious deeds that are being done to women by pastors under the guise of Christianity. Media reports are awash with these so called men of God who are abusing their posts to abuse women.

Recently in Zimbabwe we have had a pastor being jailed for 40 years for raping a number of his female congregants. The pastor is also on record for owning every woman in his church.

Another “shepherd” has been doing horrendous deeds to his flock by making them eat grass as well as physically assaulting them. The major sufferers here are women again.

Others have flagrantly molested young girls, thus betraying the trust they have been given. On record again are some pastors who use their influential positions to satisfy their perverted whims.

One is left wondering why all these regressive things are happening to women, especially in this day and age of women enlightenment and empowerment. Surely there is still a long way to go and the struggle is far from being over till women are totally emancipated. Indeed the battle fronts are ever-increasing, we have to fight against HIV/AIDS on another fronts while poverty and economic hardship on another and  it is saddening that crooked ideologies are still rearing their ugly heads on another front.

Please share your thoughts as to why these things are happening and how best they can be tackled.

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.

Highlights from 2013!

Tatenda C

On behalf of the board, staff and beneficiaries of Tariro, I would like to wish everyone a prosperous 2014. This is a time to reflect on the past year as well as determine our course of action. And a chance to let me also take this opportunity to thank those of you who have been standing with us from the years beyond. We have had a good year in 2013 – a milestone year which saw us reach ten years of committed service to the upliftment and empowerment of the girl child through education.

Our wonderful last year

The previous year ended with us scoring a number of successes. One of our students, Tatenda C, graduating with an Honours Degree from the University of Zimbabwe. We also had two grade seven students passing with flying colours in their national examinations. A number of our girls also received awards for academic excellence in their respective schools. The year also saw us have the largest number of students enrolled in Universities across Zimbabwe in our history as an organization.

We have also managed to keep all of our girls in school and none has dropped out due to lack of tuition and /or supplies. The students have continued to enjoy the full range of our programme activities.

It’s you who made it possible!

It is at this point that I express profound gratitude to you for the support you have rendered in helping our girls attain these accomplishments. We would not have managed to achieve the aforementioned had it not been for your unwavering support and commitment to the Tariro cause. In the same spirit, I would like to plead with you to continue supporting us as we drive towards the empowerment of the girl child and women through education. Your support has always been vital and will continue being so.

We look forward to another successful year ahead

We are just beginning a new year, 2014, and our mission will remain focused on the importance of women’s education as an effective response to the AIDS epidemic. With the perpetual rise of urban and rural poverty in Zimbabwe, many girls are dropping out of school thus putting them at a higher risk of contracting HIV. We believe education can reverse this negative cycle, since attending school dramatically reduces the risk that a young Zimbabwean woman might have of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. By educating young women, Tariro empowers them to build a future free from poverty and disease.

This year we are looking at strengthening our existing programs and exploring new ones. One area of note is vocational training. We would like those of our girls who do not make it academically to be armed with vocational skills to sustain them and their communities. In addition, we hope to touch more lives by expanding our area of operation to even the remotest parts of Zimbabwe by year end. This year we are bent on unrolling a package of total empowerment for every beneficiary within our ranks and we will leave no stone unturned to achieve this end.

Tariro needs your help

Yet, we know that any year is not devoid of its challenges. The plans that we have cannot be actualised without adequate financial and material resources. Given the harsh economic conditions we are operating in your continual support is much needed. Your donation, whether in cash or kind, can go a long way in empowering a girl child. You will not only be empowering her but also restoring hope to a society that has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS scourge. With your support, there will not be any challenge that will be insurmountable.

On behalf of all Tariro’s students, families, and volunteers, let me wish you a successful 2014 ahead. Tariro means hope, and hope is what our girls have, hope is what sustains us. Let 2014 be a year of hope, and a year of empowerment for every one of you. Thank you.

Kenny Magwada

An update on Noleen

Noleen C., pictured with Tariro's new director Kenny Magwada at St. Giles school

Noleen C., pictured with Tariro’s new director Kenny Magwada at St. Giles school

In today’s post, Tariro’s new director Kenny Magwada takes the helm, with an update on our student Noleen C.

For those of you who have not previous met her, Noleen has a medical condition known as spina bifida, which confines her to a wheelchair.  Several years ago, Noleen experienced physical complications from her condition, which required special care.

Thanks to generous donations from YOU, our sponsor, Tariro was able to transfer Noleen to  St. Giles, a school that is capable of attending to her special needs. Since her arrival she has taken well to this environment and her headmistress describes her as a “good, honest and loving girl.”

Recently, we had a few moments with Noleen. She seems a shy and reserved girl (or it could be that she was seeing us for the first time). She smiled heartily when her teacher told her that we were the ones from Tariro and responsible for her education. Noleen expressed her gratitude by thanking us.

Because Noleen had limited access to education before enrolling in Tariro, she is still struggling to catch up in school, and at fourteen years of age she is currently enrolled in grade four. However, Noleen has made great strides with her physical therapy during her time at St. Giles, including taking her first steps unassisted. Noleen continues to face an uphill battle in her studies. She also struggles with loneliness, as her family rarely comes to visit her during the school term. Yet she has particularly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in special activities at St. Giles, and her teachers note that she has become a “pro” in wheelchair racing.

As we approach the beginning of a new school year in Zimbabwe, I encourage you to donate in support of Tariro’s work with students such as Noleen. While the amount we need to raise for 2014 is large – about $40,000 – even a small gift can have a major impact in the lives of our students. For example:

  • $30 will provide a student with school supplies (pens, paper, and sanitary ware) for the year.
  • $80 will provide a student with a new uniform, including shoes, socks, pants/skirt, shirt and tie.
  • $100 will cover the annual cost for a student to participate in Tariro’s music and dance ensemble.
  • $150 will enable a student to write her Ordinary Level exams.

It is also worth looking into finding out if the company that you or a spouse works for matches non-profit gifts, as that is an opportunity to make your gift count double!

You can donate to Tariro online, or mail your donations directly to PO Box 50273, Eugene, OR, 97405. Thank you for your support, and happy holidays!!

Exams are Underway!

We’re excited to share that we have several students completing their O and A level exams this year. The exams are taking place right now, from late October to late November, and are a chance for the students to prove their knowledge in various given subjects.

“Ordinary level” exams take place after Form 4 while “Advanced Level” take place after Form 6. A deeper explanation of how the school system works in Zimbabwe can be found here.

This year, we have 5 students taking their A-levels, and 10 taking their O-levels! Please join us in wishing our A and O Level students the best of luck on their exams!

A-Level students

Nicole M.

Nicole M.

Jane J.

Edwinner S.

Edwinner S.

Not pictured: Tracy G., Jestina T.

O-Level

Chido C.

Chido C.

Loveness M.

Loveness M.

Gillian M.

Gillian M.

Rosa S.

Rosa S.

Julia M.

Julia M.

Pride R.

Pride R.

Not pictured: Vimbai C., Rumbidzai M., Charmaine M., Winston N.