Pain into Power

Originally posted on Livy’s blog

Apwoyo mzungus!

A significant aspect of our work here in Uganda involves storytelling and “documentations,” as GWED-G likes to call it. Here are some examples of the types of people we’re meeting that either work for GWED-G or benefit from their programs. Actually, I’ve learned that the two aren’t really mutually exclusive.

GWED-G transforms individuals. They turn vulnerable people into capable agents of change. Victims–of war, disease, exclusion–become leaders. For example, this man below is completely blind. As a part of the Community Access to Justice project, he is part of a group of “Human Rights Volunteers.” He educates his community about human rights, and assists people with referral pathways for human rights violations. He sat in the corner of the room when we met with the group of HRVs and didn’t say much. Yet when he did speak, I could tell that he was articulate, sharp, and confident. His blue eyeball was pretty striking.

Lucy (shown below in her maize field) is a super awesome. She is HIV positive, and first benefited from GlobeMed’s project for HIV positive mothers. In addition, she now serves as a VHT (Village Health Team) worker and goes door to door, advising mothers and young girls. One day, she met an HIV positive 13 year old girl who was living with a neglectful parents, so she decided to take the girl in for a few months to ensure that she took her ARVs. This was out of the pure goodness of her heart. She didn’t stop there.

People notice when VHTs visit the same homes over and over again. In fear of being gossiped about, people don’t reveal their status or seek proper treatment. Pamela, GWED-G’s director, once said, “Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer.”

To deal with these issues of stigma, Lucy took the initiative to create a support network of HIV positive people. It includes 50 women and 10 men, and volunteers liase with local leaders to visit the homes of people who want to keep their status a secret. Different people visit different homes, creating an undercover method of care. Changing culture takes time, but this offers an immediate solution.

Florence also struck me. She’s not your typical community health worker. Florence uses a wheelchair, is a VHT, and advocates for people with physical disabilities. ’nuff said.

Okay, not enough said. This woman’s story just blew my mind. Florence exemplifies the power of using one’s own personal story as a tool for action, as a way to bring social justice from the ground up. Where do these people get their strength from?!

Lulz to that baby ^

These are some fighters.

-Livy

(And here are some beautiful kiddies.)

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