AMAZING AMERICAN

 

Creating jobs for women living with HIV/AIDS

A poverty stricken woman living with HIV/AIDS receive free medicine from Mashiah Foundation clinic; however one thing was still disturbing her, she met Pastor Bayo Oyebade and pleaded, “the doctor told me I have to take this medicine with food but there is no food in my house”. Filled with compassion, Bayo reached in his pocket and gave her a few hundred Nairas. Eventually his pocket got empty. So Bayo thought  there must be a way to help these women earn money to take care of themselves. After all, many of them were strong and very capable of earning a living, if only they have skills and opportunity. bayo have seen his wife Mary Beth sewing quilts and various things which he had not seen in Nigeria, so he asked her to teach these women how to do these things. That is how it all began. Today women of hope is widely known, and the women have testified that earning money through creating handcrafts has giving tem strength and purpose to o on living.

How long have you been on ground?

We started in 2003 8-10 women and we have grown to about 100 women. These women are healthy enough to work only that most of them are not educated, not even primary education. Due to their literacy level, nobody will employ them, apart from sweeping the streets and laundry. So, they love coming here. They are happy and they have become some kind of experts in their field.

Eligibity for your programme?

Te only way you can enroll into the programme is through mashiah foundation’s clinic. It has to established that you are living with HIV/AIDS. The only set of people we accept into the programme are HIV/AIDS infected women and their adult daughters. For six years we have not deviated from that path. We have had request from men. I’m just not the one to do it. Many people are anxious to enter the programme.

What is the content of the programme?

We teach them how to make so many things which are sold in Nigeria and abroad. basically we market home furnishings. If we truly want to be Sustainable, we really need to have our Nigerian market in place. We make bed covers, curtains, dining covers and other stuff to make homes beautiful. Our raw materials are locally source from here.

After the training, what next?

We have had 3 graduations, but the graduates really don’t want to leave. I don’t work too hard to push them out because there isn’t really a market for these women to go and make these things in their neighbourhood and sell them. So I am working further on the women to make sure they are able to o these things for Nigerians to buy and use for their homes. This will make them self sustainable.

Impact?

We have almost 0% death in this programme . it’s pretty amazing, considering everyone has HIV. They are taking their drugs, and working, and it takes their minds away from their sickness as it allow them to put food on their tables. Many of their problems are solved.  Removing the mental aspect of HIV helps a lot.  If you are paid N10,000.00 a month, it’s not a great salary, but it is enough to keep you going— you feel like a productive person in the family, and even the fact that they go out in the morning with some of their best clothes and come to work is something. So all these go a long way to contribute to the success of these project.

How do your project find expression in the market?

We have a shop right here were we sell our products. We are really working hard to get a shop downtown which will be more accessible. We believe we have great products to reach a very wide customer base in Nigeria.

Funding?

The programme fund itself, right now for the past 3-4 years, from our monthly sales, we are able to pay our staff, about 11 of them, and we are able to do our best, buy various things to keep the organization going.

Challenges?

Our space is quite small here, so these women have to come once a week, and you know when you are learning, you will like to come more often, instead of every Tuesday for example. We are working and hoping of building a new sewing center by ending of 2010 so we can have more space to work. Another challenge is figuring out what kind of product to sell in the market—what do people want? what do they need? If we keep producing what we have been producing in the last 6 years, it will reduce our customer base. So we need new product that people need. With that in place, there will be no limit to the number of women we can train here. Ideally I will like to graduate women after a year so we can bring in new people. We are looking at graduating 500 women in the next 5 years.

The beneficiaries:

Esther David, a 39yr old widow and a mother of 4 kids, living with HIV. She learned about her status when her fourth child was born, her husband died a month later, she lost all hope of living. She  enrolled in the programme in 2003 through a friend. Now her baby is 7 and in school, through this programme she was able to acquire a plot of land and laid the foundation for her house, she is so healthy and happy that she can take care of her children. She is currently working on tie and dye.

Grace Iliya is also a widow and a mother of one, before she enroll for the programme,  she thought she had come to the end of the world, she was not in good terms with her family members because of her HIV status. Through this programme she rented an apartment and is happy now as she can take care of herself from her salary and has reconciled with her family.

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