Reducing The Economic Vulnerability Of Women Living With HIV
Partner: The Coalition of Women living with HIV/AIDS (COWLHA)
Malawi has one of the worst rates of HIV infection in the world with a disproportionate impact on women. Malawi’s Chiradzulu district, in particular, has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country; one of the contributing factors to this is the economic vulnerability of the poorest women many of whom are forced to engage in transactional sex in order to earn a living. The high poverty level among women in Chiradzulu is one of the key drivers of the HIV epidemic in the district.
Extreme poverty prevents many HIV positive women in Chiradzulu from accessing and adhering to treatment. Often it means they cannot afford the two meals a day required to meet the nutritional requirements that accompany the ART treatment or the costs of medicines and transport fees to the hospital. Many women have been forced to sell property, including land to meet medical bills and essential needs. Their children are often forced to leave school because the family cannot afford school fees.
What Womankind is doing
Womankind took over the management of this project in 2011 from One World Action which underwent a managed closure. With support from the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, Womankind is now working with COWLHA to reduce the economic vulnerability of approximately 450 HIV positive women and their immediate families in Chiradzulu by improving their access to credit and income generating opportunities.
Specifically this project will:
- Establish 15 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs)
- Provide start up grants (seed funding) to VSLAs
- Train elected women leaders of the VSLAs to run their VSLAs and pass these skills to all the group members
- Train 20 COWLHA women Trainers as trainers in the management of income generation activities – e.g. livestock farming, poultry farming, food vending, etc.
What we have achieved so far
COWLHA has facilitated the formation of 19 VSLAs – four more than planned. The additional groups were formed because of the high level of interest amongst the COWLHA members. The groups comprise of between 15 to 40 women. Trust is fundamental to the effective functioning of a VSLA; members select each other to form their group.
Eliza Christopher, a COWLHA member, is HIV positive, a widow with eight dependents including three orphans. She says that prior to joining her VSLA group she did not have money to buy soap, clothing for her children or medicines.
Through the project she has managed to buy two piglets which she will feed for three months and resell at a higher price from the loan that she received from her VSLA group. In the meantime the loan has also enabled her to start selling dried fish and tomatoes which is helping to sustain her family.