Africa Empowering women living with HIV in Djibouti to live dignified lives
Zarah Ali (not her real name) remembers how things changed for the better. “In 2014, I received a loan of 40 000 Djiboutian francs (US$ 250) that I used to develop and improve my garment business. I was also trained in business entrepreneurship, including marketing and customer satisfaction. I import clothes from Dubai and Somaliland and earn a decent income that helps me support my 25-year-old son, my 16-year-old daughter in secondary school and my three-year-old adopted son. I am able to pay for my rent, electricity and water and have decent meals.”
Ms Ali’s loan came from an income-generation programme established by the World Food Programme in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, UNAIDS and the national network of people living with HIV in Djibouti (RNDP+). The programme supports the long-term empowerment of, and provides regular incomes to, women living with HIV in Djibouti City. It helps them to achieve financial security and have access to food and improves their access to health-care services. Income-generating activities such as those supported by the programme have a powerful potential to help people living with HIV adhere to antiretroviral therapy and optimize health outcomes.
The loans, ranging from US$ 141 to US$ 438 per person, are for starting or building retail businesses. The beneficiaries, who are selected from among two networks of people living with HIV affiliated to RNDP+ (ARREY and Oui à la Vie – Yes to Life), also receive training on how to run their business. Government support in the form of favourable policies and legislation has been vital to the success of the programme.
Dekah Mohammed (not her real name) now lives a fulfilling life after receiving help from the income-generation programme. Ms Mohammed, who lost her husband to AIDS, lives with six children. After she lost her job in the hospitality sector owing to her deteriorating health and to stigma and discrimination, she started her own clothing business and received a loan of 50 000 Djiboutian francs (US$ 313) to expand her business. The loan was repaid within 10 months. Her business has since expanded into furniture and electronics and she has recruited an employee. “I am no longer a desperate woman. I make enough to take care of my family and dependants,” she said.
The programme has improved the quality of life of many Djiboutian women, allowing them to regain dignity and ensure their financial security. It empowers women and girls to protect themselves from HIV, make decisions about their health, live free from violence and be financially independent.
Building on the belief that empowering women living with HIV and their households to be financially independent strengthens adherence to treatment and leads to more fulfilling and dignified lives, the programme contributes to the World Food Programme’s broader strategic contribution towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.