This week we had our first (HIV) Positive Women’s support group. We had 5 beautiful women show up, 2 who have already delivered and 3 pregnant women. Unfortunately there must have been a miscommunication on the time as 3 of them showed up first thing in the morning, even though the meeting wasn’t to start until 1pm! They said “no problem”… that they would wait. And so patiently they sat amongst the other ANC mothers as the usual routine of palpation, injections and health education went on around them.
An hour before the meeting was to start Helen, one of the midwives, asked if MSF was providing refreshments? I had said we had not planned it but we could make a proposal for next time? She thought about this briefly and then piped up “we are a humanitarian organization. How can we call these women together and not provide them with anything?! Let’s pool our money together and buy some mineral and biscuits”(soda and cookies). So between the 3 of us we came up with the $5 for refreshments. I was really proud of Helen for taking ownership of the group and taking action!
Because we decided to start a bit earlier finding a space to meet became an issue. Thankfully there were currently no women admitted in the 6 bed maternity ward and so we met in the empty space, which as it turns out was the perfect setting. All the moms got comfortable on the beds, putting their feet up and lying their babies down beside them. This started the meeting off with a very comfortable vibe, as opposed to sitting on the uncomfortable wooden benches (which have been known to break under the weight of 5 pregnant women!).
After Anna, our counselor had gone over some ground rules (confidentiality being her main point) and discussing some of the possibilities of the group, she asked the women to introduce themselves. She asked one of the younger ones to start, but she was so shy that she just kept looking down, so Anna moved on to the next. Slowly we went around the circle, as we came to the end, the shy young one blurted out “Shinaka” (the name of her village), “I’m from Shinaka and my name is Amina”…she was not about to be missed in the end! (this was all communicated in Hausa language) I could see the confidence grow just in this short time.
As I looked around at each woman I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the beauty and courage of each one. They are each taking their health and the health of their babies seriously and are doing what they can to ensure this. My hope is that this will be fostered even more through the support of each other in our little women’s group.