For these women entrepreneurs of Malawi, it’s the start of another business trip. They are heading across the border into neighboring Tanzania to buy goods to sell in their shops.
But this trip is different. They are about to learn how to protect themselves, and their families, from HIV.
Sellah Chikoya Chiume is an entrepreneur and a member of Malawi’s National Association of Business Women called “Nab-We”. She’s also a peer educator, trained to share vital knowledge that many of these women are hearing for the first time; that they have the power to protect themselves.
Having arrived in Tanzania, the women waste no time buying their goods in order to return to the border post. There’s usually a long wait to return to the Malawi side.
Sellah Chiume keeps herself busy spreading the word about HIV prevention. She and other “Nab-We” members were trained to be peer educators at workshops facilitated by the International Labour Organization.
Patrick Makondesa, ILO HIV/AIDS Workplace Programme Malawi (in English)
Peer education becomes an important tool at the workplace because people talk on equal terms and they are able to express themselves better.
The approach is one of the key components of Malawi’s draft national workplace HIV/AIDS policy, which is being developed in collaboration with Malawi’s government, workers, and employers organizations.
Holman Malata, National AIDS Commission, Malawi (in English)
ILO has helped build the capacity of the Ministry of Labour in terms of how they can look at HIV & AIDS as a workplace issue, but also how they can look at HIV&AIDS as a labour issue.
It’s night-time before the border officer inspects businesswoman Cecilia Mambo’s purchases. It can take hours to get across the border, sometimes overnight. That’s when some of the business women can put themselves at risk, or be put at risk for HIV.
Cecilia Mambo, Entrepreneur (in Chichewa)
When going to buy our goods we don’t face any problems but often when coming back we are treated unkindly at the customs post. They even delay us unnecessarily. The other problem is that the places we spend our night are not safe.
Thanks to the peer education, business women like Cecilia Mambo and Sellah Chiume are better equipped to face these situations.
When it comes to protecting themselves against HIV, the message is clear: women can make the decision, not just the men.