My name is Sibongile. I got married on the ninth of December 2000. It was a white wedding, held at the Simunye Pentecostal church in Swaziland. We were so happy. But after three years, my husband got sick and died.
He was an employee at Simunye Sugar Company, so we had been staying in one of the company houses. Even before he was buried, my in-laws wanted a share of what we had. They took everything, from the bedroom to the kitchen and the car. They left nothing for me and the children.
Rural Swaziland, where Sibongile lives.
In the Swazi custom, a woman must stay indoors, away from the public, for 30 days, beginning from the day her husband passes away. So I went to his parental home, with my children. After the cleansing ceremony, my in-laws asked if I wanted to visit my parents. I thought they were being supportive. When I returned after two weeks, I found out I had been wrong.
I found my mother in law, sitting in front of the house with her friends. They laughed at me and shouted, “Where is this one going to, because this is my home, not your mother’s home. Take all your kids and go away.” She called one of her other grandchildren and told her to lock the door.
On top of this, I was very sick at the time; the doctors were sure I would die any moment. But I started my ARV treatment and recovered well. It was so very hard to live without a job and with no support from relatives. I managed to rent a small apartment in the country, and my husband’s company paid the school fees for the children. We struggled to live.
Sibongile with her children
I want to counsel HIV positive women like me -- this is in my heart. You see, in our country there is no law that protects the inheritance rights of women. If you are a woman, you cannot get a piece of land by yourself. You have to bring a boy child, so that the land can be registered in the boy’s surname. Until we gain our rights, we must help each other to survive.
- Sibongile works at the Swazi National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, in Swaziland
Tembelani's views about what it means "to be a man" have changed, over the years
Growing up, I had three families: my mother’s home, my father’s family home, and my maternal aunt’s home. My mother said, “If you have three homes, you must always visit all of them.” Two of these homes wanted to send me to school. I chose my father’s family, because they had cattle that I could look after, and I was excited about that life. So I stayed there, preferring to look after the cattle rather than going to school. I thought this is what it meant to be a man.
As I was getting older, I went to find work in Johannesburg. I found a job in the mine. I came back to my village in Eastern Cape to go to circumcision school. When I returned to my job, I got injured in both legs, but that was a blessing for me. I never liked being in the city, as it meant I was far away from home. So I stayed at my village, later becoming a ward councillor.
After getting injured on the job, Tembelani left Johannesburg and return to his village
One day, some people came here to teach us about the rights of children. Village men said that raising children was a job to be done by women; the trainers said both women and men can take care of people. I realised that I was not treating my own children properly. I even thought that’s what being a man meant.
Now, I have totally different ideas of what it means to be a man. I help run programmes at schools, advising boys about sex and how to use condoms. These boys even tell me, “We do want to test our blood,” but the problem is that clinics are far away, and people don’t have money for transport to get there. I see this as my challenge, to ensure there are clinics here.
Because of my role in the village, all the people here are my responsibility, especially on issues concerning health. Now I no longer have just three homes – I need to look after the entire village. They are all looking up at me. Leaders must not be afraid to speak out about what is helpful and what is right.
- Tembelani works for the municipal government in Qumbu, South Africa
My father passed away when I was nine years old. My mother took care of us until 2002, and when she also died, I was left with my brothers and sisters. Our older brother looked after us, feeding us as well. But when he got married, he had other responsibilities.
After both her her parents died, Nolusindiso was left to care for her younger siblings
I then became the parent to the young ones. I tried to apply for their grant money. I collected it and then took care of them. A lady in our area saw what I was doing for my family. She said, “We would like to offer you a job, to help you take care of orphans and vulnerable children.”
At her organisation, new employees get tested for HIV. I was very scared, because I had been having sex without a condom. I also knew that rumours would spread if I went to the clinic. But I got my blood tested, and I got lucky – I tested negative.
My heart was glad and joyful for the job I got. I have learnt a lot about HIV and AIDS. I can now stand tall in my village and tell people that all of us are HIV positive or HIV negative. It is just that some are infected, while others are affected. It makes no difference, who faces which of these things.
Nolusindiso is so happy that her job allows her to support children in need
I have worked with young children for almost a year. I make sure their relatives spend their grant money wisely – that instead of buying alcohol, they buy food, clothing, and school items. I’m proud of myself, because I am able to take care of children who have lost their parents, just like I did.
- Nolusindiso works for the municipal government in Qumbu, South Africa
My father used to beat my mother and call her names. He used culture as an excuse to deny her, and to deny us our rights to peace. He would say, “Women and children should respect the head of this family, and no one can rule besides me in this house. It’s my culture.” I had to ask myself what kind of culture that could be. I was young, I couldn’t do anything, but I wanted to fight him back.
When I was bigger, I went to a boarding school. I used to worry about my mom when I was away. I wondered what my dad was doing to her and what would happen if I went home for the holidays. I couldn’t concentrate, with all the wondering.
Tapiwa (far left) at boarding school
I joined a gender and HIV/AIDS club that had more girl members than boys. I learned the many misconceptions my schoolmates had about gender. For the boys, gender was about women’s issues; it had nothing to do with being a man. This disturbed me, because I knew from my own life how gender-based violence affects both women and men.
In my work today, my colleagues and I challenge young men’s ideas about what a man should be like. When they say, “Men should take risks, because that’s what being a man is about,” we point out that certain kinds of risks are not about being brave, they are about getting HIV. As a man, I want to change the thinking of other men and young boys about the roles they play in life as husbands, fathers, and members of communities. I have vowed not to use violence in my life.
A few years ago, I was sitting with my dad in the garden, and we started talking about a domestic violence murder that had happened recently. Right away, he brought up the times he had been violent. He apologized for what he had done to us and to my mom. I could see that he is a different person than he was. He respects my mother and us as his children. My father’s story tells me that our strength as men doesn’t have to be for hurting. Instead, it can be for finding the courage to change.
- Tapiwa works with the Padare Men’s Forum on Gender, in Zimbabwe
To date, more than two billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B. The Hepatitis B Foundation, which works to improve the lives of people living with hepatitis B recognizes that directly engaging community members in speaking out about obstacles to testing, prevention, and care is essential to reducing the stigma associated with the virus, encouraging screening, and improving services.
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The rich legacy of the civil rights movement was commemorated across the country in 2013, which marked the 30th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington. To honor the work of activists in the 1950s and 60s, several groups in the City of Denver, CO developed a project to encourage awareness and present-day engagement with civil rights issues, as part of StoryCenter's All Together Now initiative.