Project's Mama's 2022
Mwasiti Almas is a 48 years old woman who lives in Olosivia, Arusha. Mwasiti is a widow who is responsible for four children who all depend on her. When she was diagnosed with HIV 27 years ago, she wanted to kill herself. She felt her life was over and worried for the future of her children.
It took some time but she learned to accept her diagnosis and now works as an advocate for the HIV community in Tanzania. Mswaiti’s second child is also HIV positive. This child was also in a major car accident and now has metal in his leg to help him walk. She was unaware of her status when she was pregnant. Her other three children are HIV negative.
Mwasiti is very open about her HIV status and takes her medication daily. She likes to teach other women about HIV and how they can prevent transmission. Mwasiti is a homeowner which is very rare for women in Tanzania. Her main form of business is selling underwear and socks to her neighbors. She hopes to learn how to read, sew, make jewelry and soap during her time at Lifted Strong.
Jane Gabriel Ngunda is a 49 year old woman who has three children. Jane is married and currently only has one child who depends on her. Jane was diagnosed with HIV in 2013 after being really sick. Jane’s husband is abusive and blames her for HIV status despite him not knowing his own status. (This is a common theme among women in Tanzania).
They still live together but are very much separate in their lives. He is afraid of living with her, despite him being HIV positive himself. She is very open about her status and encourages everyone to get tested and talk about HIV.
She loves to dispel the stigma around HIV as she does not see it has a burden but more as a strength.
Her status has made her stronger and more open to harder and bigger obstacles. Jane went to school up to secondary, but hopes to further her education through Lifted Strong’s programs. Jane loves to cook chapati, fried banana, and pilau (fried rice with veggies). She currently relies on her older children for money and support. Jane wants to learn how to sew, bake, and bead. She is very excited to start Lifted Strong and gain a community of like minded women who love and support one another.
Paulina Ernest is 38 years old with three kids and has never been married. Two of her kids live with her, and the other one lives with a relative in Moshi. Paulina was diagnosed with HIV in 2013. When she was diagnosed with HIV, her own sister started spreading rumors about her. This destroyed Paulina as she felt betrayed by her own family.
She was living with her sister at the time but knew she had to move out as it was very hard to focus on her health when someone was constantly telling her she was not worthy. Luckily, her children are HIV negative. Her main source of income is selling bananas, laundry, pulling weeds at local farms, and cleaning houses. Paulina is a skillful baker and enjoys making maandazi (donuts) and half cakes. Paulina went to school up to primary education. She hopes to learn how to sew, do business, and be more open about her HIV status. Paulina is tired of having her HIV status define her as a woman. She is grateful for the LIfted Strong community and is looking forward to joining a support network of like minded women.
Rahma Julius is a 39 years old forest day worker with six children. Although she does have a job, it is inconsistent and pays very little. In 2017 she got very sick and went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with HIV.
She was worried about telling her relatives in fear of the stigma and shame that comes with a HIV diagnosis. Her relatives ended up finding out anyway, and tested her youngest son. Her youngest son’s test came back as positive. However, her other five children are negative. She continued to get sick and as a result of HIV she started having amnesia. Her father advised her to not tell her husband until he was tested.
The doctors tested her husband and he was positive as well. She lives with her children and her husband. Rahma's husband is a drinker and tends to ignore all the family responsibilities as he blames himself for their HIV status. They currently rent two bedrooms in Ngaramtoni and rely on relatives for financial support. Before she ran out of capital, she was selling maze and second hand clothes.
Rahma has no skills and only went to primary school. Rahma hopes to learn how to sew, do business, cook, and most importantly accept her diagnosis to help her husband and youngest child cope with the stigma surrounding HIV. Currently, Rahma is facing medical issues as she has major swelling in her leg due to lymphedema.
After losing her husband in 2004, and being diagnosed with HIV, Juliette (48) was left to care for her three children and four grandchildren by herself. Her HIV status not only meant that she was rejected by her community but also being sick prevented her from working and earning money to support her family. She arrived at Lifted Strong in January 2022, feeling extremely anxious about the future and how she would be able to sustain her family - the insurmountable stress this placed on her left Juliette extremely depressed. Joyce and Eva not only provided Juliette with refuge and support but filled Juliette with hope again. Lifted Strong paid her medical fees so that any profit that she gets from her business can go towards her and her families living expenses. Juliette says her favourite thing about Lifted Strong is the community of women that support her and uplift her to be the best version of herself - she hopes that one day her charcoal business will be successful enough that she can support other women and be an inspiration for them. Juliette hopes that in the future other women will be able to experience the same love and care that she receives at Lifted Strong, and the belief that she is capable of anything.
Glory William Tarimo is a 21 years old woman who was born with HIV. By the age of five she was orphaned as her mother passed away from HIV. She went to live with her aunt and uncle in Olosivia, Arusha. She has always taken retrovirals but never understood why she took medication everyday. No one ever explained her diagnosis to her.When she was in year four, her family finally explained she was HIV positive. She experienced massive discrimation for HIV and stopped going to school. Glory was also diagnosed with Tuberculosis. She failed secondary school as she was unfocused by the constant hate and fear of her life. Despite her challenges she was able to attend college. But had to pay for the expenses herself which was very stressful. Unfortunately, she was unable to concentrate because of illnesses and had to return home. At home she was diagnosed with cryptococcus neoformans (fungus of the brain). She has monthly injections to help ward off this infection which can damage the nervous system. She used to sell sardines but recently stopped as her supplier moved away. Glory’s skills are limited but she hopes to learn how to bead, sew, cook, and do business
Eva Lomayami is 35 years old and is a widow with two young boys. Eva is HIV positive and her husband passed away from HIV. She is very open about her HIV status and talks frequently about her husband and how she wishes he was still here. Eva is Maasai and has had to overcome many barriers of living in a patriarchal society. In the Maasai culture, women have no rights and are unable to own anything. Maasai women often are solely dependent on their husbands. When her husband passed away, her husband's relatives chased her out of their home. She now lives at her grandmother's house. Eva’s main source of income is doing laundry for her neighbors. When the season is right she also sells firewood and grass. Selling firewood and grass is very labor intensive. Eva never attended school. She hopes to learn how to read, write, and do business while at Lifted Strong. Eva also wants to learn how to sew and become financially independent for her children.
Christina Daudi is 42 years old and is divorced. In 2015, Christina started to become tired and went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis. She stayed in bed for three months since she was really sick and her viral load was very low. She felt awful as she was the sole breadwinner and no one was going to support her or her children. Her diagnosis caused her to be chased out of her home. Her community was not supportive but instead gossiped about her and her family. Luckily, her four children are HIV negative. She now lives in Ngaramtoni in a rented one room with her two children as the other two do not depend on her anymore. Her main source of income is braiding hair which she does inside her home. She is hoping to learn how to sew and do business. Her biggest wish is to gain support and new friends while at Lifted Strong.
Joyce Godbless is 58 years old and is HIV positive. Joyce is a widow who has five children and three grandchildren. She is responsible for her three grandchildren. Her entire family is HIV negative however they are discriminated against because of her diagnosis. Those in her community do not visit her house nor do they like to associate with her children. Life became very difficult since she needed to pay rent but was on bed rest for 6 months. She wasn’t able to provide food for her family and they often went many days without eating. Joyce has no education and lacks skills. To afford to live she does laundry and any odd jobs she can do. She hopes to learn how to read, write, and sew. Her biggest dream is to help her grandchildren go to school and receive an education. She wants them to have a better life than she had. She hopes to one day say that there is a doctor or lawyer in the family.
Saluda Selmani is 39 years old. Her husband passed away in 2001 as a result of a car accident. Saluda had one child but they unfortunately passed away. She moved back to Dar Salam to her brother's house. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital where she was tested for HIV. Her test came back positive. She had no idea how she contracted HIV. She ignored her diagnosis and continued to work as a house maid. In September 2021, she started to get sick again and fainted. Her employers took her to the hospital. The hospital reaffirmed her HIV status. She also found out she had a fungal infection, spinal problems, and ulcers. She is now living with a Good Samaritan. She hopes to learn business and skills to improve her life. The founders of Lifted Strong hope Saluda will learn to accept her diagnosis and take better care of herself. They hope she will become an advocate for the HIV community as the disease is not a death sentence.