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Born with AIDS, jaded by stigma

At only 18, Tlotlo Lillian Moilwa has a lot more in her plate. Unlike other teenagers whose whole life problems come to daydreaming about their crushes, battling with studies, rebelling against the world and fighting problems that come with puberty-there is an added burden to her tiny shoulders.


Moilwa was born with HIV and has struggled with stigma issues for a long time. But she did not want to wallow in self pity anymore, in March 2016, she decided it was time she went public about her status. She does not let negativity affect her at all; strong-minded, she is determined to live as long as God allows her to.


“I found out I was HIV positive when I was 10 years old, I was going through my late mother’s medical cards and found it written ’HIV transmitted from mother to baby’, At the time I didn’t understand what that meant at all, I didn’t even care to ask my aunt and grandmother. I was just very oblivious and went to join the other kids playing down my neighborhood.”


Both her parents succumbed to AIDS related illnesses, leaving her and her sister orphaned.”My mother passed on when I was six, that was in 2006 and my father later passed on when I was eight in 2008, they both died of AIDS,” Moilwa told WeekendLife.
According to her, stigma is a result of ignorance on the part of many people, and that is why she chooses to speaks openly about the feared HIV/AIDS. “I speak at schools and conferences; I also do it through radio, television and interviews to educate both kids and adults about the virus so they understand what it is and what it’s like to live with it,”she said.


 She has spoken to thousands of people, hoping to help educate others and reduce the stigma around HIV.  “Growing up knowing that I am HIV positive wasn’t a pleasing thing whenever a teacher stood up in front of me to talk about STIs I would feel uncomfortable in class, get embarrassed, shed tears as I had a haunting feeling that people could tell/see that I am HIV positive,” she shared.


While she admits that she gets tossed about by pain and feelings of low self worth where the reality of her status haunts her; she manages to rise above it all. “But no I don’t blame my mom or dad! I don’t know how they got the virus as well, so why would I point fingers?” she asserted.


She has a strong support system in TEEN CLUB; her aunt, grandmother and sister. “I am living positively with this virus, the fact that I am HIV positive is not a barrier to anything I want to do just like any other person, I date, I have fun but no I don’t take liquor like most youth.” She hopes that by using her voice and living as an example, she can help the world be a more understanding place for those who are afraid to be open about having HIV, so they can let go of the shame and feel comfortable in their own skin.


“As a teenager living positive; I got to realize that many young people are failing to accept the fact that they have the HIV virus thus I am trying to help them overcome that fear by granting them courage. I am also hoping that in time, the negative thoughts people have of HIV can die away through what I do.”          


According to Moilwa, she doesn’t announce her HIV status to the grocery store cashier or to new acquaintances out of the blue like a kid, but she does stand in front of crowds and openly talk about having HIV. “As an ambassador of Sentebale; a registered charity that supports orphans and vulnerable children, many of whom are affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, through education, psychosocial support, and care we give them the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives.


I get to travel with them on different occasions where I am always given moments to speak to young people; and as I speak I will be leaving Africa to UK to meet the Patron of Sentebale, Prince Harry himself,” she added. She is part of only a handful of HIV positive Batswana, possibly the youngest, to have made public their status since David Ngele more than two decades ago.

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WeekendLife

Death or Divorce – a tough choice for many

24th May 2022
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Rebecca* is a woman in her late thirties. She holds her head high and walks with a sway in her steps. There is an air of confidence when she speaks. So when she tells me how her husband has been abusing her throughout their 17 years of marriage, I am taken aback.

“Everyday is a new experience for me. I don’t know what version of husband I’ll meet; the one who will scold me for forgetting to lay out his clothes or the one who will hit me for putting too much salt in the soup,” she says while wiping tears. 17 years is almost two decades. I ask her why she has had to endure all that pain for a long time but she only shakes her head and does not answer.

Like Rebecca, hundreds of women experiencing domestic violence find it difficult to leave. For some, it is for reasons best known to them, for others, they simply do not know why or have the words. People who have not experienced abuse find it unfathomable that survivors stay in their relationships and not leave. It seems almost like they enjoy it. But until an experience has been felt, it is easy to give directives on how to act.

For Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai, it took 6 years to escape the suffocating grip of her abuser. “It was a traumatic experience,” she tells me. “I can tell you this for free; the same intensity used to abuse you is the same intensity used to beg. When he does this, pity begins to set in and you become confused on what to do.”

Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai

I ask Ms. Demilade Lawal, a psychologist from the University of Chester, in an interview, if there is a psychological reason behind this and she affirms.

“For a lot of women, it’s a glimmer of hope that things are going to get better. And that glimmer of hope can be understood when we are aware of the social cycle of abuse. There is a tension phase, an abuse phase and a honeymoon phase. In the honeymoon phase the abuser temporarily changes his ways and alters the victim’s decision to leave. Then the tension starts and then abuse follows.”

Another reason women remain entangled with their abusers is the fear of the unknown, the unclear reality of what would be after leaving.

“The truth is, as much as this person abuses them, there is an emotional connection. They love this person, there is a traumatic attachment whether they are aware of it or not. It is not the best love environment but it doesn’t change the fact that this is how they feel about the person that abuses them. So the thought of starting afresh without this person whom they have grown to love despite the abuse is just as frightening,” Ms Lawal says.

Although this may sound like an unjustifiable reason to some who have not walked this path, Ms. Rahmatulai agrees.

“In my case, I loved him very much. I could not imagine going to tell my family members or friends that the man I loved started hitting me as early as a month into our marriage. I was embarrassed. So I stayed back, hoping it would get better,” she says.

Research shows that one of the many reasons why women remain in abusive marriages is a lack of income which results in total financial dependency on the abuser. Could this be a strategy to trap the victim in an abusive cycle?

“While I was married, my husband would give me very little housekeeping money. He knew I did not have a job and the money would be insufficient but I could not say a word. I had to feed my children. If I complained I would get beaten. He provided for everything in the house, what authority did I have to question him,” Ms Rahmatulai says to me.

I ask Rebecca if she has a job and she says no. She mentions she’s an interior decorator but she barely gets offers. When she does, her husband collects everything.

A major factor for avoiding abusive marriages is to identify red flags. However, these flags are sometimes mistaken for natural behavioural traits. In Ms Rahmatulai’s case, she tells me she noticed her husband was quick tempered and ill mannered before marriage however she waved them aside as he had never hit her during courtship.

How then can abuse survivors find the courage to leave?

“The decision to leave is a process, it takes a shift in perspective – realising that you deserve better and that your kids deserve to grow in a healthy home where they don’t learn to be abusers or think it’s okay to be abused,” Ms Lawal says.

“When I pack my bags to leave, my husband would hit me. When I unpack, he would hit me. I started going to school to get a degree and then later I started trading. When I had what seemed like enough then (N80,000/ $192), I left my husband regardless of the worst that could happen. I realised if I stayed long enough, I would be dead,” Ms Rahmatulai says.

“It’s been 20 years since I left. I’m 51 and a lawyer now. I have dedicated my life to helping women in abusive marriages leave. So many men have called me a home breaker but I say it’s better to break a home and save a life.”

*Rebecca has asked to stay anonymous by using a pseudonym.

Claire Mom is a Nigerian journalist and an advocate for human rights.
Email: clairemom26@gmail.com
Twitter: speakclairely

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WeekendLife

7 Days to go before As One Music Concert

24th May 2022
ATI

Multitudes of music lovers are expected to throng Francistown’s Obert Itani Chilume Stadium for the highly anticipated As One Music concert next weekend.

Updating WeekendLife on the preparations of the event, Kesego Okie said the preparations for the show are going well and they are working around the clock to make sure that they fulfill all logistics that need to be concluded. She said, ATI has been working hard alongside the featured artists to give Batswana the best experience at concert.

She said that the concert has been accepted well by Batswana and they are very happy with the ticket sales. ”But of course we are looking forward to more ticket sales as more people are showing more interest in being part of this historic event and we are grateful to all our partners and sponsors.”

She appealed to the Francistown Business Community to come on board and support the initiative as it’s a concert for the people. Okie said Francistown was chosen for a reason as they believe it is a gate way to a number of other strategic places in Botswana like Maun, Orapa, Phikwe and Kasane.

“We also felt that since the city has been greatly affected by COVID-19 an event of this magnitude was befitting to be held in Francistown so that we can also play our role in uplifting the socio-economic livelihood hence we believe it is vital for the business community of Francistown to embrace us so that collectively we can contribute meaningfully together as one to the community of Francistown”.

She indicated that they have a large number of artists particularly from Francistown that have shown interest during the show activation and other artists that have collaborated with ATI in the past and those that have contributed in the growth of his music, and it would be very difficult for them to fulfil the mandate of the show without support particularly from the corporate community in Francistown.

Tickets for the event are sold at P50 kids, P150 general, 500 VIP silver circle and VVIP for P1500. All tickets are sold at all Liquarama Outlets across the country.

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WeekendLife

Phakalane soars to new heights

24th May 2022
Magang

Founded 30 years ago by David Magang, Phakalane Estates came from humble beginnings to gradually expand into developing one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the country which attract high income dwellers.

When the development began in the early 90s the estate was to be developed into 13 phases. It is then that a decision was taken by the developers to come up with plans that would be appealing to certain groups of the society.

Phakalane Estates continues to make its mark in the property development space, this year, they have managed to invests over P45 million on major renovations to the Golf Estate properties namely the hotel, golf course, and conference center.

Already the company has erected 84 single and double bedroom apartments which commenced early this year. The construction of these new apartments has been set for Peto Estates, a gated community within the Phakalane neighborhood strategically placed a stone’s throw away from multiple shopping centres such as Mowana Park and Acacia Mall.

“We want the best for our clients that is why even in Peto, we have various apartments for every one and also bearing in mind that the people should be not far from the complex,” Phakalane Estates’ Lesang Magang said in an interview.

So far the roads tarring has started at Sebote estate which is part of the estate expansion, it is expected that even things electrically will get handed to the Botswana Power Corporation which will be the last stage plus the lights on the streets. “In terms of infrastructure we don’t compromise we ensure that it is world class so that we don’t disappoint our clients. Those that brought houses earlier when they sell them it comes at a profit.”

Following the success of the launch of Peto Estates back in 2014, when over 300 plots ranging in cost from roughly P300, 000 to P1.4m were immediately sold out with a high surplus of demand, Phakalane Estates boasts strong confidence in the market demand for new apartments in the area.

The apartments are set to follow the trend of the estates with state of the art modern designs and facilities that will unequivocally catch the eye of professionals in the market for a smaller yet upscale rental property in Gaborone. Phakalane Estates CEO Subramaniam Parthiban has expressed plans for the creation of an all-new industrial park in Phakalane aiming to expand and consolidate the existing industrial strength the community already boasts.

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