On a recent trip to Tanzania, we visited Kimara Peers - an Egmont Partner for six years – located in the sprawling suburbs of Dar es Salaam. Phiraeli Kiwia, who founded the organization, took us to meet Martha, who had lost most of her family to AIDS and was caring for her nine grandchildren.
Tanzania has been less affected by HIV & AIDS than its sub-Saharan neighbours. A national prevalence rate of 5.1%, or 1.5 million people infected, means that AIDS is not an everyday part of life for many Tanzanians. As a result however, awareness of the disease is low, and fear, stigmatisation and violence against those infected is more prevalent than in countries where there has been more investment in HIV & AIDS education.
In Kinondoni Municipality, where Kimara Peers operates, HIV prevalence is almost double the national average, at 10%. Consequently, Kimara Peers helps the some of the most marginalised in the region, who are at a high risk of infection due to ignorance, discrimination and poverty.
Kimara Peers provides counselling and an extensive support system for those living with HIV. Their strong network of emotional and financial aid ensures that individuals need not face their life-altering predicament alone. Egmont met one such individual, Martha, who told us how Kimara Peers had helped her.
Martha lives in the suburbs of Dar es Salaam. She has lost her husband and three of her children to AIDS related illnesses; her son and husband dying within weeks of each other. Grief stricken, Martha was left to care for nine young grandchildren, ranging from 14 years old to a small baby.
In a country where women rarely enjoy an independent income, she struggled to cope, her small business unable to feed, let alone clothe and educate the grandchildren left in her care. Martha told us that at this point, she contemplated suicide.
A local government representative introduced Martha to Kimara Peers, who delivered food supplements so that she and her family had enough to eat. She also liaised with a local church who arranged for three of the children to go back to school.
The turnaround in Martha’s story since her introduction to Kimara Peers is remarkable. Her struggling business, that once sold tomatoes and fish, is now a thriving enterprise that supplies local hotels and restaurants with plump chickens, a lucrative industry in Dar es Salaam.
After joining Kimara Peers, Martha received business management training, and was welcomed into a Household Income & Savings Association (HISA) group. Each HISA member contributes weekly to a communal fund, which members can borrow from to set up income generating activities.
Living in the suburbs, Martha took advantage of the land around her garden where chickens could roam, and with a small loan from her HISA group, now sells mature birds for TZS 10,000 profit (£3.64). With the income she generates she can afford school fees and uniforms for all her grandchildren. Martha also has a group she can turn to for friendship and understanding. She is no longer alone.
This story appeared in the Egmont Grassroots 2014 - Issue 1.