Providing peer education to young mothers in Malawi - Emily's story
To mark International Women’s Day, we hear from Emily, a peer educator from Malawi who dedicates her life ensuring other women have access to the information and support they need to seek testing and live positively.
Emily Njerengo is a peer educator in rural Malawi. She is living with HIV; she lost her two children and husband to AIDS-related illnesses. Emily credits a safe motherhood support group with having helped her move past her grief and find a purpose educating and counselling other women. She was trained by the Foundation for Community and Capacity Development (FOCCAD), a community-based organisation that receives technical assistance from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF).
“I visit several women of childbearing age each week,” says Emily. “I speak with them about how they can ‘live positively’ with HIV, and particularly about PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV], with the intention of sensitising them on the long-term implications of the virus while emphasising the availability of treatment.
“FOCCAD helps us peer educators in our efforts by providing our clients with transportation to health centres and ensuring that the process is consistent.
“Agatha is one of my clients. She is an HIV-positive woman who has been through two home [births]. It took me five visits before she finally accepted the value of testing and counselling, so my friendly perseverance was crucial.
“As a peer educator interested in ensuring the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, I assist women like Agatha through the duration of the maternity process, from referring them to a doctor and ensuring their strict compliance with antiretroviral therapy, to assisting them through the process of breastfeeding and post-natal care.
“Maintaining comprehensive records helps me in scheduling my days, particularly in the light of the long distances I have to travel on foot. I can see up to two women every day.
“Apart from my job as a peer educator, I also engage in farming and operating a small eatery business that sells fritters. This is necessary because that my job as a peer educator is completely voluntary and I earn no income from it. This is worth it because it means I can share essential life-saving information with my community. It allows me to play my part in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, ensuring the community’s survival through future generations.
“I think of my late husband every day, and regularly say a prayer for him; it is in his memory that I dedicate myself to this work, in the hope that each of the people I touch can be saved from a similar demise.”
Emily’s story was originally published on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) website as part a blog series for International Women’s Day – which celebrates inspiring women they have worked with over the past year.