I have been living in this village for almost 7 months now, but I am not even close to mastering the local Chichewa language. My vocabulary is very limited, I only know how to say thank you, ask the patients about their complaints or how to apologise to the families of my patients whom I can not save...
© Husni Mubarak Zainal
But there is one thing that I am proud of, and that’s that I can sing a song in Chichewa. It is a simple song that at first I didn’t even know the meaning of, and for that I should thank three women - three great women I met and work togetherwith in this landlocked country in Africa.
These three women, just like any typical Malawian, with dark skin and a smile that always on their faces, politely greet me in the morning in front of our maternity ward. They have been there far before the warm sun starts to shine. Greeting the patients one by one, they ask about their conditions and the babies. No, they are not doctors nor nurses. Some of them only graduated from elementary school. But their ability and dedication are far beyond their education levels. These mothers are part of larger group of peer educators called 3M, Mai ndi Mai ndi Mwana which translates from Chichewa to Mother to Mother to Child.
Everyday at 8.30 am, which has always been a pleasure for me, these three women begin to lead a chorus of mothers and expectant mothers who visit our health centre to sing songs.
“What is the song that you sing about actually?” I curiously ask Chifundo, one of those three women. I raise my voice in order to be heard, when the women sing together. There was no music, only a rhythmic clapping accompanies the beautiful choir.
“It’s a song about family planning and sexual and reproductive issues,” she answers me while clapping her hands following the melody, still with a smile that seems to never fade.
I’m suprised! Knowing that the song is full with education and moral messages, even more suprised since I realized that each and everyday they sing a different song. “There is almost 20 songs that we always sing together and all off them is to encourage women ” Chifundo continues to explain to me. They sing together to support each other, to leave their problems behind for a moment and to take some time to appreciate themselves.
There is one special thing about these three women: they are the ones pregnant women who find themselves HIV-positive for the first time, go to for advice and support. With them, these women can share all their burden and worries. They offer a place in which women confess their fears; fear of the future that seems suddenly grave, fear of diseases caused by the HIV- virus that now resides in their body, fear of being stigmatized by society or even by their own husband, and on top of that, fear of transmitting the deadly virus to their little babies...
But all those fears and worries seem to fade away, when the soothing sounds of these three women touch me and the patients. “Don’t worry, we will always support you”..
The sentence is not only a sugarcoat, I regulary found the three ladies walking for up to 10 kilometers off the beaten track to visit the villages that can not be reached by car and sometimes are even too difficult to reach by bicycle.They do this, to find out the condition of the pregnant women in the program, when they do not come to a routine visit. Occasionally they also go and seek out the woman’s husband to attempt to remove all doubt and create acceptance for the woman’s condition within their families.
They show that there is hope, hope for pregnant women not to transmit this deadly virus to their babies. That the future is still there for them to reach, that stigma will never win if they accept their status themselves and that being HIV positive is not the end of everything.
They are real examples, because these three mentors are HIV positive women who managed to survive and have children who do not suffer from this virus.
Their dedication and work continously inspires me, and I am thankful to God for giving me the chance to meet such great women in the warm heart of Africa.
This article is first published in www.kompas.com in Bahasa Indonesia language.