Care and support for HIV infected and affected weigh heavily on the woman and the girl child. Girls are often pulled out of school to care for the sick and prepare food. Without formal education and empowerment for prevention, they remain vulnerable and become exposed to HIV infection and reinfection.
The value of education and empowerment of the women and the girl child cannot be overstated. Education makes women more confident and ambitious; they become more aware of their rights and can raise their voices against exploitation, abuse and violation. If women weep silently, a nation bleeds.
The battle is only half won if the women get access to education and opportunities.
HEDECS, a woman-led organization, offers scholarships to the girl child, encourages formal education and learning through sports for change, performance-based financing in education and donations of books and didactic materials. HEDECS has also carried out a series of capacity-building workshops for women on wealth creation, gender-based violence, vocational training, survival and life skills in the face of crises, armed conflicts, poverty, menstruation, marriage, family planning, HIV prevention and management, transactional sex, commercial sex, and internal displacement among others.
Education and empowerment have enabled women to understand better, take ownership and have their voices heard in addressing their vulnerabilities, such as child trafficking, child abuse and labor with its consequences of contracting HIV. They are emboldened to challenge a culture that violates women’s rights, including persons infected and affected with HIV leading to the eviction of widows and their children from land, denial of widow inheritance and social participation in health, further education and human (women) rights, all of which also contribute in spreading HIV.
Prisca was married and discovered she was HIV positive when she was pregnant with her second child, to whom she gave birth – a beautiful girl child named Precious. Precious almost gave up on life and education because of the burden of growing up as an infected child in poverty as her widowed mother was evicted from her rightful inheritance to the land. But through it all, Precious remained strong and courageous due to her own resilience and the empowerment and support in education she received from HEDECS. She is now living a fun and fulfilling life, is happily married and a proud mother of three children.