Wednesday, February 20, 2013
We were talking with a friend recently who told us that global health folks have decided to add the letter “D” to the famous ABC’s of HIV prevention. For those not up-to-date on the HIV/AIDS lingo, A stands for “Abstinence”, B for “Be faithful” and C for “Condoms”. And so now the letter D is being introduced, standing for “Delayed sexual debut.” It seems that finally the world is recognizing (finally) that by the time most young people (or really most young adults) hear about ABC’s and start thinking about the consequences of premarital/unprotected sex, they have already begun engaging in risky behaviors. Children are exposed to adult themes so early in this culture. We have had, on multiple occasions, children as young as 3 playing “house” in our front yard… and, with pants down, trying to mimic mommy and daddy’s lovey dovey action. We often feel like little kids, especially girls, are asked to grow up too fast.
Our friend Mwape gave birth last week. Mwape failed out of 9th grade this past year and was pregnant a few months later. She has always looked youthful and vibrant, but now with a tiny baby, she looks, I don’t know… worn? Depressed? Aloof? Some of that is probably a little PPD. The fact that she is still drawing her own water and cooking all of her own food doesn’t help. Her equally young baby daddy is not exactly the most empathetic character out there.
Anyway, my point is that we really love these little girls around us and we want to see them stay little for as long as possible. So yes please! Add the D! Delay sex until the time is right kiddos!
And until then… Have a silly band!
It is really common for girls to wear condom rings on their wrists as bracelets. I don’t know where they get them. I assume out of someone’s trash pit which is just… gross.
|the condom bracelet|
For any girl I see with a condom bracelet, I make a deal with her. Ditch the condom and I’ll give you a much more exciting silly band! I can’t change all of the sexual mores in the village, but I can perhaps swap one adult theme for a more age appropriate one. Does this make a big difference? Who knows. But the girls feel special and important, and they don’t wear tattered rubber with dried semen on their wrists and I think that’s great!
|silly girls, silly bands|
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Last week I had a three day stint as a “single mother.” Jeremy went to Lusaka to pick up chickens and since I was busy with a Home Based Care program, I decided to stay in the village. I don’t think I realized how much of a routine Jeremy and I had established together. I watch Bronwyn while Jeremy does ABC, he watches her while I do XYZ. As harried and random as I feel most of the time, it finally occurred to me that we actually have figured a few things out. So Jeremy’s leaving for 3 full days meant that a serious wrench was thrown into my daily functioning! The first night, I called Jeremy and said, “I haven’t eaten dinner, and its getting dark, and Bronwyn’s asleep, but I haven’t closed up the house, and I don’t know how to do any of this by myself! GAH!” (Yes, I minored in melodrama at Cornell). I got better by day two, and was on my way to fabulous by day three (brazier top eggplant parm anyone?) just in time to receive Jeremy back home, give that boy a smooch and tell him how much I need him.
|Jeremy, Bronwyn and Precious|
I know that there are many, many actual single mothers out there who are well adjusted and have happy, healthy children. I’m sure that if I were to find myself in a single-mother situation for a longer period of time, I too would figure out how to make it work.
But being alone and without my helper made me actually think a lot about the women around me who are, in many ways, single mothers. Culturally, it is the woman’s job to care for the children and the home. All cooking, washing, feeding, bathing, sweeping, educating etc. falls on the shoulders of the hard-working women of the village. Their husbands come back from the field/friends/bars and expect supper and entertainment from a brood of already cared for children. There is little to no collaboration amongst spouses. No joint decision making. He does his jobs, she does hers. Equity is not highly valued. The foreign brought “women’s rights” movement has meant that women have the “right” to do all of the man’s jobs in addition to her own. The marriage is functional above relational. And while there are exceptions (as always), these have been my observations, which, in recent days, have become all the more poignant.
|Bana Bo and Charity|
Sometimes when I give women advice regarding feeding of their children, or household sanitation, or raising funds for education, I see the look in their eyes that communicates a single word: “myself?” Oh, ladies, I wish it weren’t by yourself at all.
|Bana Enoch with Impundu, Enoch and Alan|
I’m thankful that a simple chicken buying excursion has helped rekindle my commitment to a group of women who work so hard – who do what I do, every day, on a much larger scale, and with much less help.
|BYOB (bring your own box) party|
To all the mamas around the world who, for the love of their babies, try their very best in all things, I thank you.
|a whole slew of "making it work" mamas|
And to my partner in life, hubster and friend, I deeply respect you.
|Jeremy, Bronwyn and Gift|
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Bronwyn has crazy powers of persuasion. Credit it to her baby blue eyes, three toothed grin or the porcelain white skin – whatever the reason, when Bronwyn’s around, she gets whatever she wants, and by extension, so does the parent holding her. We’ve only used her powers a few times…
The ART clinic (Anti-Retroviral Therapy clinic) at Mansa General Hospital disperses all medicines to people with HIV in Mansa District. The lines are always way too long and the doctors, nurses and admin staff have a way of making people feel like they are an inconvenience. We have been lobbying for years to have a rural ART clinic placed in the Fimpulu area, but bureaucracy, lack of funding and other unknown factors have made it a difficult process.
There are also a lot of rules at the hospital that make things difficult for people traveling into town from rural areas. They only disperse medicine on certain days at certain times. They only see certain kinds of patients at certain hours… And as the ones trying to coordinate and organize 175 people (from our village alone!) to get in to see doctors and get medicine in a timely fashion, dealing with the (seemingly) arbitrary logistics can be frustrating. On many occasions, our people will come out of the hospital and I’ll ask them, “how did it go?” and they’ll tell me that the doctor told them to come back tomorrow because he only sees coughing people on Thursdays, or something like that. Each and every time, I’ll go back into the hospital with that person, explain the situation and how returning the next day is not only a waste of time and fuel, but probably not necessary. Usually it takes a little bargaining, once or twice it has taken actual crying on my part. But for people on ARV medicines, timeliness matters. Adherence matters. Being treated with dignity and respect matters. I do what I can.
But let me just say that this work of advocacy is SO MUCH EASIER WITH A WHITE BABY! It kind of makes me roll my eyes, but it is what it is and I use it to the advantage of the vulnerable ones around me.
|ART clinic photo shoot pic 1|
The other day a neighbor couple of ours came to visit and tell me their problem. They had been going into the hospital with us every week for the past six weeks to try to open their file – a necessary process for receiving ARV medicines. They weren’t sure why, but the ART clinic was refusing to complete the process, saying that they were lacking information from their hospital where they had started taking the medicines. They had been told to return to that town and get their complete files and then come back to Mansa and finish the process. I looked at the paperwork that the first hospital had sent them with and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what additional information was needed. “I think they are just giving you the run around” I told these friends. They shrugged their shoulders and said that it seemed impossible, and that they wanted to come and work at the farm to raise the money to go to Kasama and collect the paperwork. “You want to work for a month and a half to raise the funds needed to travel 1,600 kilometers to collect paperwork that is not necessary? This is nuts. Why don’t I try to help you.” They questioned whether I would be able to do anything considering the strict rules of the office they had been dealing with. I told them not to worry, that I would go in with them, and that we would take Bronwyn. The couple just sort of looked at me as if to say, “uh, ok.”
|ART clinic photo shoot pic 2|
The next day we traveled together to Mansa. I walked into the appropriate office with Bronwyn in my arms and our neighbors right behind me. “How’s our baby today!” the office staff smiled and clapped. Bronwyn went to playing with one of them at the computer and I talked to the others. “Our friends here are trying to open some files, but there seems to be a hang up. Can you help?” With Bronwyn cooing and playing and catching everyone’s attention, the ladies looked at her, looked at me and simply said, “Let’s take care of it right now, shall we?” They pulled out a marker, a fresh file folder, asked our friends some questions and the process was completed. I wanted to ask why my request had been granted so quickly whereas the people next to me had been denied for six weeks straight, but I decided not to push my luck. The couple was extremely grateful, thanked me, thanked Bronwyn, got their meds and all was good.
|ART clinic photo shoot pic 3|
Part of me feels like it really isn’t right – the fact that my skin color and especially the cuteness of my baby gets us whatever we want while other people have to fight for justice. I’m thankful that my child is a Micah 6:8 baby, and I pray that this early heritage grows her into a powerful Micah 6:8 woman!
|ART clinic photo shoot pic 4|
And in the mean time, I'm glad these people love her!
|ART clinic photo shoot group shot... they look like they work for a modeling agency, right?|