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Action Aid Project - January to March, 2014
Mtema, Chitukula and Kabudula in Lilongwe districts
Training women living with HIV in village savings and loan methodology

This report documents the progress of activities that happened from January to March, 2014 in TAs Mtema, Chitukula and Kabudula in Lilongwe districts under an HIV/AIDS project with funding from Action Aid.

The project aimed at improving the economic status of women and girls by building their skills in village savings loan and business management. The project also aimed at improving access to quality treatment and good nutrition. Lilongwe was chosen as one of the districts worst affected by HIV/AIDS among women and girls.

The project used STAR approaches to achieve the objectives. The objectives are derived from the fact that, HIV/AIDS has remained the major challenge to the development agenda for most African countries. Malawi has not been spared from this scenario, as affected families have been left in deep poverty largely stemming from the loss of productive labor. As of 2006, the national adult prevalence rate (15 - 49 years of age) stood at 14%.

This, at the household level, has led to loss of income due to sickness, absenteeism from work attending funerals or to the needs of their sickness and/or the sickness of family members. This meant that the means that provided better livelihoods for such families were seriously compromised as more and more labor was diverted from productive work, farming inclusive, to caring for the sick.

This situation exacerbated food insecurity and negatively impacted on livelihoods of communities in addition to adverse weather patterns that had hit Malawi in the last few years preceding 2004. Livelihood erosion caused by HIV affect both availability and access to food, less than 25% of households can access cassava or bananas during the lean season, the most common food staples after maize.

The year 2014 has presidential and Parliamentary General Elections in Malawi. This entailed a lot of campaign meetings. It was such pre and post-election meetings that to some extent overshadowed the programme activities much as integration was attempted.

The progress of the project is detailed below:

Planned Objective 1: to improve the economic status of 14,228 women and girls by building their skills in village savings and loan VSL and business management.

Planned Activities - village savings and loan methodology

Women benefited from income generating activities that include village loans, piggery, vegetable growing, rabbitry and micro-business.

Women literacy skills increased after the training.

Analysis of progress of Outcomes/Impact
Increased economic independence for women living with HIV.

Planned Objective 2: Improve access to quality treatment and good nutrition for 7986 WLHIV

Planned Activities
Establishment of 5 STAR circles and implementation of STAR action points in supported LRPs to address issues in their communities.

Circles are able to analyse issues of common concern and seek solutions. These are followed by action points with particular focus on points that required local resources.

Action points implemented.
STAR process has helped women in star circles to demand the condom use training in order for them to have choice in the use of both male and female condom.

  • Condom use and supply increased in the catchment areas
  • PLHA share knowledge about their HIV/AIDS enabling more to open up about their HIV/AIDS status
  • Stigma and discrimination for PLHAs reduced
  • Violence against women and girls reported and action took place - referred to Kanengo police victim support unit

Analysis of progress of outcomes/impact

  • Increased engagement with duty bearers on issues affecting PLHIV
  • Increased organisation engagement visibility and engagement with duty bearers at national level

Conclusion
There were some lessons learnt during the implementation of the project. These include:-

  • Involvement of communities in all stages of project cycle management ensures success and sustainability. Participation by communities is also a source of safety and security of both project staff and equipment.
  • We have learnt in this project that using the traditional ABC approach to HIV prevention is not effective for women. Abstinence is defeated by rising cases of rape. So many men are not faithful to their spouses and use of condoms is largely defeated because it is men who have power to use it or not. There is a connection between gender based violence and HIV and AIDS. GBV was found out to be both a cause and an effect of HIV and AIDS. Therefore to effectively combat HIV and AIDS, it is important to consider working on GBV.

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