In Zambia the women don't inherit anything when their husbands die. Due to this, women are sometimes left with nothing because they are not allowed to own land or ploughs, despite the fact that they are the sole caretakers of their children after the death of their husbands. To be able to survive, some women get into commercial sex industry to earn money, endangering and exposing themselves to getting infected by the HIV virus.
Women in Zambia Dealing with HIV/ AIDS Host: Now AIDS is changing the way people think about this custom. Green Munkombwe has decided not to inherit his uncle’s widows, nor to take part in ‘sexual cleansing’, a practice involving sexual intercourse that is believed to break the bond between a widow and her dead spouse’s spirit. Green Munkombwe: We have this pandemic disease and everybody now has known the consequence of that disease, such that we are not free. The only – we can only go so far as to assist. But err, on marrying or taking over the marriage completely -- we can’t go ahead with that one. Host: While changes like this can help stem transmission of the HIV virus, they can also leave women more vulnerable. In some communities, when a man dies, it’s customary for relatives to take what they want - even if that means leaving women and children destitute. Pauline Chasauka: [Foreign Language] (Translation) We used to plough, from that tree up to the village. When my husband died, all the land was taken away. Some of his relatives came along and said they wanted to plough here, that it was their land and we had to stop using it. Female: [Foreign Language] (Translation) Since we are all of one family, me I don’t feel there is anything wrong here. We are just sharing. We are not grabbing land. It’s just the normal way. Gladys Mwaanga: [Foreign Language] (Translation) They took many things from us. For example, they took our plough. It was the only one we had. So it’s become very difficult because we have nothing else to use and we have a large family to feed. Karel Callens: Most of the attention in HIV/AIDS crisis has been on the medical aspects HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is disease and it has always been dealt with as a disease as such, so people are looking at ways of prevention, they’re looking at treatment. But very little attention has been paid to all of the food security aspects -- how people cope with the impact of the disease on their lives. Host: For a lot of women, coping can mean putting yourself at greater risk of being infected by the HIV virus. Macy: [Foreign Language] (Translation) If I find ten or more men who would like to sleep with me, that is a good day. If I’m unlucky, there will be only one. Host: Since her parents’ death, 19-year-old Macy has worked as a prostitute to support two younger brothers. Macy: [Foreign Language] (Translation) If I’m offered enough money, I won’t use condoms, because what I need most is money. Marcela Villarreal: People who have access to food don’t need to go out and sell their body to be able to eat. So, if women, if widows, if orphans have possibilities of getting food, possibilities of producing their own food or buying their own food, then they are not in the situation in having to engage in risky behavior just to be able to eat. Food security in itself is a means of prevention. Host: One way to increase food security is to help people improve their crop yields, in spite of cycles of drought or labor shortages. Harriet Kalaula is a widow with eight children. Four years ago, she began using a simple technique known as ‘conservation farming’. Now she plants her maize in pits instead of conventional rows. And, as a result, she harvests a third more maize, using less costly fertilizers and less water. But techniques like this one are slow to take hold and, as another drought strangles crops in southern Zambia, AIDS households have one-third less income to cushion the blow. Hamusimbi Coillard: The moment you have a drought it means there’s crop failure, so households will be seen selling livestock -- goats, chickens -- to go and buy the food they needed. But now, because of the increased pressure as a result of HIV/AIDS, most money is needed to meet the health expenses and at times funeral expenses. Female: [Foreign Language] (Translation) We don’t know how we’re going to get by. We’ve never seen a drought like this before. We can’t plant enough and now it is the end of the season, so we don’t know what we are going to do. Hamusimbi Coillard: People because of HIV/AIDS -- they’re capacity to actually cope with the drought has been undermined. And then in that sense of thinking it’s a drought which or a crisis which will come back. Host: Many believe the real crisis is yet to come, when millions of children orphaned by AIDS take up their responsibilities as adults. In neighboring Mozambique, the streets of Chimoio overflow with orphans. Some survive in small gangs; others are exploited as a cheap source of labor. Stephen Lewis: What do you when you’ve never had nurturing, love or affection our child’s as they’re growing up because your parents have died when you were very young? What happens when you have your own children? How do you bring them up? What happens when you’re bewildered and angry and enraged by the circumstances of life and you act out or you become delinquent? Fifteen or 20 years down the road, God alone knows the destabilizing effects of these kids.