Sunday, June 30, 2013

Empowering Women and Finding Family in the Best Places

I sincerely apologize for the lack of blog posts, it's been a crazy two weeks! I just arrived back from the third largest village in Botswana, Kanye, which is located about an hour outside of Gabs and where I spent a week with a host family. I have so many pictures to share but first I want to back up a little and talk about Extension 2 clinic where I was working two weeks ago.

Although this clinic didn't have a maternal ward or a child welfare clinic area, I was able to do my first formal interview with the PMTCT Coordinator! Yes, that's rights, I used an informed consent form and everything! During our conversation she explained to me how the Routine HIV Testing (RHT) Program started from the ground up and how the PMTCT aspect is the real success story. For all the responsibility falls on the mother to ensure that her baby is safe and healthy which makes her that much more inclined to adhere to the ARV treatment during her pregnancy.  In trying to have women get consistently tested for HIV men stand in the way for full adherence because most of them refuse to get tested themselves saying that they say they aren't "ready" to know their status. Thus, though women are coming in to get tested themselves, if their partner doesn't know their own status, the program isn't able to have any real affect in lowering the rate of new infections because an HIV negative women can still easily be infected if her partner is unaware of his status. Because the PMTCT program is solely between and woman and her child, the transmission rate has dropped to 1% transmission simply because these women understand the importance of preventing the spread of HIV to the next generation--something no man can stand in the way of.

My group with the OBGYN in the scanning room
Again, during my interview, I heard about problems with drugs and alcohol especially in teenagers. But  I was at least encouraged by the persistence of such nurses and health educators such as this PMTCT Coordinator to never cease outreach activities. I spent almost an hour talking with her in her office and it was really amazing to hear her talk about all the changes she's witnessed to the health care system over the past decade, especially in helping women to see that they have the power to protect their kids from something that often they themselves can't control when it comes to protecting against HIV.

I also got to spend some quality time with some of my nurse friends that I made during my time observing in the HIV-testing and counseling rooms. They would bring me along on their breaks where I met with the rest of my group for tea, coffee, fat cakes, sometimes fries and a lot of freshly made bread and peanut butter. In addition, I received a marriage proposal from one of the male nurses at the clinic. His name was Life, and boy was he full of it! He was quite a source of entertainment for us that week!

Before I get to home stay pictures, the Thursday night before we left for Kanye, my roommates and I went out to celebrate our Motswana roommate Fiji's birthday. From there two of my friends and I met up with another Motswana friend Lera who is incredibly bubbly and energetic. She took us out to a bar called the Cigar Lounge which really turned into a club around midnight. It was quite a night! They played some really fab American music and everyone had a blast. I got to meet some more local Motswanas our age and it was awesome to feel like a part of a scene happening half way around the world from home! All the dancing sure did make me miss Iowa City though.

My bedroom 
The sitting room 
Alrighty, now to the home-stay! There's so much to talk about that I'm going to use my pictures to help you get an idea of what my experience was like. Though I must admit I had a rough first night adjusting, the next afternoon I met my 21-year old host sister and her cousin who is 22 and goes to UB also and I realized just how much I was going to enjoy my time in Kanye. I went to a clinic called Mafikhana Clinic in the mornings and then got to hang out with my family in the afternoon. Friday night my sister and cousins took me out, despite the fact that we did have water, electricity or cell service and I had such a fun night I'll never forget! Kanye is really a small town though because the next morning our combi driver who is a family friend asked me if I had a good night. Apparently word gets around fast when there's only one smiling white girl in the entire bar enjoying a night out with her new family!

The kitchen  

My little sister Ougafi playing games on my iPad

View of the compound area: I lived in my grandmother's house with my sister and cousin. My host mom and her two kids lived in the smaller house towards the back. 

Bathing with a bucket of water in a tub! Note
that the water had to be heated in a tea kettle. 

Abigail and I walking around Kanye after Clinicals

The waiting area of Mafikhana Clinic

My sister Thato taking hot water from the fire to make her bath

Walking with freshly cooked (and killed) chicken for dinner!

Mma Pearl serving Fat Cakes!
Ougafi sitting by the orange trees in the backyard 
My cousin Kgosi picking oranges

Little cousins playing outside at dusk

Dancing during a power outage!
Traditional wedding decorations at the head table 
Local wedding reception tent

Cooking tons and tons of food

The gals!

I came away from this week realizing how much more I enjoy being in smaller and more rural villages as opposed to a bigger city like Gabs. The people are just so much warmer and all the activities are so much more family based and authentic that I really didn't want to leave! I was promised that I could stay with my family any time I come back to Botswana and I told them I would be back sooner rather than later! 

Mma Donor and I during my last night in Kanye!

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