The income from ActionAid child sponsorship activities goes a long way in rural Nyanga in eastern Zimbabwe.
Across the region large groups of women and a few men meet on a regular basis to discuss the many issues faced by women in Zimbabwe such as empowerment, living positively with HIV and AIDS, caring for people who do and how to make a living in a country where women traditionally have had a hard time making it on their own. The support groups and STAR circles are set up with the help of FACT Nyanga who provide the technical framework and trainings for the groups.
For 42 year old Florence Mdamba who is living alone in rural Nyanga, the help and support of her STAR circle has proven to be a life changing network for her.
“I used to struggle to make a living,” she says.
“It’s difficult to make it as a woman alone with no one to help,” she explains and tells the story of her chickens while feeding them with maize seeds which they fight for with happy chuckles.
The chickens are an income generating activity set up by FACT Nyanga where the members of support groups are granted a few chickens along with relevant training to make for a stable, secure output. Today, the result is cackling in the henhouse outside Florence Mdamba’s s hut beneath Nyanga mountain.
“I started out with 5 chickens, today I have 20 not counting the 5 I sold to get money for fertilizer for my maize and medicine,” she explains. The medicine she refers to is Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART) which she needs as she is HIV positive. Without a steady income, many Zimbabweans struggle to get access to this vital medicine and because of the lack of it many fall ill and dependent on other people’s help. Bus fares are also usually a big challenge which hinders PLWHA from accessing their medication on a regular basis. This vicious circle has been broken for Florence Mdamba. Today, one cannot actually tell that she is HIV positive.
“The chickens also provide for an important source of nourishment for me. Because I’m HIV positive, I need healthy food and being able to slaughter a chicken sometimes, is very good for me,” she adds.
To this day, she has only eaten one of her chickens but simply having them there gives her a sense of food security that many of her Zimbabwean sisters can only dream of.
A few kilometers away, her support group hosts weekly meetings where she and the other members come to discuss the many issues engulfing the lives of Zimbabwean women. Above all hovers the issue of stigma for people living with HIV.
“When we began having STAR circles and support groups here, there was still a lot of stigma among the villagers. People were afraid of having anything to do with the ones infected with the HIV virus, but because of the community work we are now doing, we get a chance to talk and explain and this is opening up minds in the community,” says one member of the group.