Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Mother's Day Story - Compassion in the Face of HIV/AIDS

Rarely seen apart, Naalamala and her daughter, Namwata, share an affection that is hard not to notice.  This loving bond between mother and child stemmed from the mother’s close monitoring and care of her daughter who was born deaf and HIV-positive. Naalamala withheld her daughter’s positive status from her until she was old enough to understand and cope with the information.  Also, Namwata would not be able to marry with her positive status; therefore, unlike her other two children, her care and well-being would always remain with her mother.

Rarely seen apart, Naalamala and her daughter, Namwata, share an affection that is hard not to notice.

Naalamala’s husband died due to AIDS.  In Maasai community contracting HIV/AIDS and dying can be related to a‘spiritual backlash’ – like a curse. For example they might say, “Your husband must’ve done something bad in the community, and like a tree, the branches are dying.”  However, despite the loss of Naalamala’s husband and the subsequent positive status of both Naalamala and Namwata, the family remained loving and supportive to them both.  Realising this type of change in a community’s thinking can take time, but through the SM-TZ Community Conversation approach, some in the Mairowa community have learned to accept that AIDS is a disease that requires not only medicine but a big dose of compassion.

After the death of her husband, Naalamala’s family returned to her father’s boma (family homes).  They remained in her father’s boma until her son reached the age when he was expected in Maasai culture to exercise his manhood with more power and responsibility. He could not do this living under his grandfather’s authority.  Additionally, Naalamala would not inherit from her father’s boma, so it seemed like the right time to start her own. Recently, Naalamala broke away from the security of living with her father and started life anew in her own boma where her son is the male head.  

It is essential for Naalamala and her daughter to have enough to eat every day as the antiretrovirals prescribed to HIV/AIDS patients are very strong and must be taken with food.  For this reason, each one in Mairowa who has self-identified as having HIV/AIDS, like Naalamala and her daughter, have been provided with five goats to enable start of a herd and with food aid during the recent, severe drought.This herd will be a sustainable path to food security for the family and will take less labour as they are weakened by AIDS.

Naalamala, unwell, and her daughter - no words, the picture says it all.

 Although Naalamala had moved away from the security of her father’s boma, her own sister and mother often visit her boma, providing needed support to a life that is highly laborious.  Additionally, Nasula, a SM-TZ volunteer, visits monthly to check on family well-being.  It was after one such visit that SM-TZ learned that Naalamala was unwell, so SM-TZ staff arranged for a medical check-up, which led to an extended hospital stay.  Released too early, she returned in January for further treatment.  Throughout her sickness, her family continued to care for her and Namwata; eventually, their loving support guided this resilient mother back to health.  

Naalamala, home and well after a 3 month battle with illness due to  HIV/AIDS.

The sacrifices of women who are mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters contribute to the ongoing health and well-being of those who fall under their care.  They are the loving and sacrificial life force that inspires, teaches, and heals.

Mother and daughter - life is good again.

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