The Jacquelyne Ssozi Foundation’s work with young mothers living with HIV

By Jacquelyne Alesi

Since July 2020, The Jacquelyne Ssozi Foundation has been fundraising to support young mothers and women living with HIV in Uganda. The Foundation is currently running two small projects with women in different regions (one with young mothers with HIV in Kampala and Wakiso districts and the other in Luweero district with women living with and affected with HIV). These projects have kept the Foundation busy and in this blog I write about the project with young mothers living with HIV in Wakiso and Kampala districts.

Background

The Jacquelyne Ssozi Foundation, with support from a friend as her birthday gift, collected funds to help run some activities for young women in Uganda.

The New Year New Hope campaign is a campaign aimed at celebrating young mothers who are managing to live positively with HIV after having babies, and who are also providing peer support by helping other young mothers who need counselling to feel better about themselves in their communities.

All these activities ran between January and March 2021 and below are more details.

Activity 1: Around mid-January, young mothers were invited to a life skills session in Kampala, Uganda, for a day out with their babies. We received 15 mothers and 18 babies. These mothers really enjoyed this time during the sessions. We decided on many topics, including:

  • How to take care of ourselves financially and health wise: most of them were not financially well, in fact some of them just walked to the venue and the babies looked malnourished.
  • Relationships: the issue of relationships was something some of them refused to do again especially after the bad experience of past relationships. However, we talked about the possibility of ensuring to first look after themselves.
  • Adherence to ARVs: The one important issue we discussed was the new HIV drug DTG. Most of the young mothers say it’s not working for them, especially the timing which is making some lose sleep at night. However, we talked about the different ways members can take it and that included taking it during the day so that they can sleep during night. Members also mentioned common myths about DTG (infertility, death meds) but we discussed them too and members left feeling convinced that it’s ok to take the medicine.
  • Cervical cancer: Members talked about a challenge that they have, worrying that they may have cervical cancer. However, during the talk one of the members encouraged them to go for a Cervical Cancer screening as soon as possible at their facilities but also informed them that if they don’t know where to go they should contact her for free screening at her facility.
  • How can we be supported to have our dreams come true? In line with financial support, I talked to them about how they can have their dreams come true. I gave them the example of myself, of not giving up even when I had lost everything. I told them to continue writing their dreams but also ensure that these dreams come to pass by planning for themselves.
  • Taking care of our babies: In the meeting we had a first-time mother. She was 20 years-old but was unsure of how to take care of the baby. Some of the mothers helped her and she left excited. I checked her during a visit and she had improved.

Activity 2: Between mid-January and mid-February, young mothers were visited at their homes to show togetherness and to see how they are getting on. The visits are described below in more detail:

  • Visited 10 mothers: I could not visit all the mothers because of the distance, however, I sent some of them some milk money for the babies. This helped members to know that the project cared for them.
  • Supported mothers with some milk for the babies: I was able to procure milk for the babies. The amount given depended on how many babies the mother had at home.
  • Offered some counselling to the couples that I met: during the visits I discovered some young mothers needed counselling. In each home I would spend an hour or more depending on the situation we found there.
  • Visited some of the artisans who would be willing to teach the young mothers at a lower fee: this came about because members had suggested ways they could be supported with skills to start businesses within their communities.

Activity 3: Around mid-February, we met the young mothers to learn and share how they felt since the first gathering. We also explored next steps with them, to see what they would like to do next together. This activity was a follow up for the both the first meeting and the follow ups. We discussed business ideas and how to be supported to start small. Below are the topics we discussed:

  • Business management
  • Types of business idea which include;
  • Tailoring
  • Salon
  • Cake making
  • Small kiosk
  • What can we do for one another beyond the meeting? Members suggested a few ideas that can apply once a woman has been given a chance with business skills, for example; forming a young mothers saving group with training in leadership skills from which they select their own leaders for the saving group; Saving monthly 10,000 Uganda shillings.

What’s happening now?

After the meetings and planning the way forward, thanks to some long-time friends, we were able to support five young mothers to have their dreams achieved and they’re currently having their three-month trainings (three are doing salon training and one is doing tailoring, and also one woman is successfully running her small kiosk).

This piece was peer reviewed by Jane Shepherd, Emma Bell, Fiona Hale.

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