Prevention, anti-stigma and anti-Discrimination Community Practices: Lessons from Ugandan Communities
Another Article from Africa Empowerment Communities
Small is not always less
This is a group of women and men who got together to address three things:
1. Create into themselves an orphan and vulnerable children support team
2. Identify children in needs
3. Identify how they could appropriately care for the children but at the same time use their homes as income generating spaces.
The idea of cottage industries in this community took effect, there was need to establish an organization whose membership was to be comprised of like minded persons. This organization took up the task of looking after children, most of whom are living with HIV. An organization called Tusitukirewamu Women Group was thus born. It took on the name literally meaning: 'let us join hands.'
The organization was established around 2000 and since then has had lessons to share. It started off as a small self help initiative but with time became a very important community development organization and a landmark of the area.
Leadership, Income Generation, conversation, dialogue and accountability
Turning Ridicule Into Rewards
Before 1995, Kawempe Division, the largest suburb of Kampala Capital City Authority in Uganda, had over 1,000 children living with HIV. These children were orphans. Many were living on streets, many being abandoned children were living as street-children and many died from exposure and living with HIV without care. These deaths of children contributed to what is known as child deaths (mortality rates). Those who had relatives caring for them, had a roof under their head but did not go to school and were not allowed to mix with other children.
By 2000, the group had devised ways to bring together all homes in the area where children living with HIV were cared for. In no time, the homes were identified. Household heads were asked to join as one and form a group.
Stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV had a big influence in how this group could carry out its activities.
Stigma and discrimination affecting children living with HIV: Children living with HIV were not wanted. They were verbally abused. They were publicly shunned. In those homes where they were cared fro many had separate plates and cups. Many slept in rooms separate from others. The children would not go to school. When they got ill their status was taken for granted and a death sentence hand over them. Little effort was done to care for them. "After all they would die anytime, why waste time and energy?" was a common statement.
The group members faced the full force of stigma and discrimination: they were labeled as suffering from HIV and therefore should not be useful members of society, society shunned them, they could not interact freely within communities and in most cases their property was vandalized with impunity.
The group devised means to sustain themselves. They made friends with many other people including politicians and after some years the members were able to engage in income generating activities. This brought in funds to run homes. The group enlisted more members and these members came with different abilities. One such ability was performing arts.
Through music, dance, drama, the group caused conversation around stigma and discrimination. Soon people questioned why they were even scared to the extent of stigmatizing and discriminating those living with HIV and those working to help support. The roles changed. They also decided to be part of the support mechanism. Up to today, this area is a supportive community.
Different forms of sending messages and fighting HIV
This Can Be Repeated in All Other Communities
Stigma and Discrimination at grass root levels can be eradicated or overcome. This group has demonstrated it so clearly. Because the members are no longer fighting the effects of stigma and discrimination, they are able to commit quality time to care giving.
This way they are able to conduct specific counseling and follow up care like that needed by adolescents or children living with HIV.
Community Based Approaches
The good side of community based Organizations:
1. These are made up of people who know the specific needs of the people.
2. They are run using appropriate resources.
3. They can be organized without so much bureaucracy.
4. They enable beneficiaries to access services without walking long distances.
5. They elevate the status of the area once successful.
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