For a mother and daughter in Tanzania, a better relationship means a better chance against HIV

November 30, 2017

At 12 years old, Tumie Shomary faces everyday pre-teen adversities—making good grades, asserting her independence, sharing her challenges. But growing up in Morogoro, a city in eastern Tanzania not far from the capital Dar es Salaam, Tumie is also confronted by challenges that increase her risk of contracting HIV.

Like being pressured to have sex. One day when her mother was at the market, a neighbor propositioned her, suggesting she come to his room. She refused. When her mother returned home, Tumie told her what happened.

Experiences like this aren’t uncommon in Tanzania, but they often end differently. Tumie’s mother credits USAID’s Kizazi Kipya project for making the difference.

A 5-year project implemented by Pact, Kizazi Kipya strengthens families caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS or are vulnerable due to the disease. Using a child-focused and family-centered approach, the project bolsters the continuum of care to improve prevention, care and treatment outcomes at the clinical, social service, community and household levels.

In 2007, Tumie’s father died, leaving her mother, Getruda, to raise two children on her own. Getruda supported the family by selling water and vegetables in the community. It was difficult, particularly because she was often sick.

When relatives encouraged Getruda to get tested for HIV, she learned she was positive. Pact immediately enrolled Getruda and her two children—Tumie and her 15-year-old brother Nurdini—in the Kizazi Kipya project.

As a mother, Getruda was increasingly concerned about Tumie’s social interactions and the risks they posed for her. But she struggled with how to talk to her daughter. Their conversations often resulted in fighting or in Tumie spending more time away from home, which only increased her vulnerability to abuse and HIV. It also affected their relationship, with Tumie becoming more secretive and rebellious.

That’s where the Faraha Caring Families group, part of the Kizazi Kipya project, came in. The group was critical to helping Getruda manage her concerns and talk openly with Tumie.

The Faraha program strengthens interpersonal relationships between parents and teens by helping parents develop effective behavioral management strategies. The approach is grounded in social learning theory and aims to address some of the common structural causes of violence against adolescents in low-resource settings. Faraha’s goal is to reduce mistreatment of adolescents in the home as well as their exposure to violence and abuse outside the home.

Had it not been for Kizazi Kipya, Getruda believes Tumie wouldn’t have told her about the man who approached her for sex.

“I was very shocked, but glad she trusted me,” Getruda says.

The Faraha program encourages involved parenting and close monitoring of children, and discourages inconsistent and harsh discipline methods. It aims to reduce stress and depression among parents and to increase caregivers’ social support and parent-teen planning to avoid risks. It’s just one component of Kizazi Kipya’s integrated approach to supporting Tanzania’s orphans and vulnerable children.

Today, Getruda knows better ways to handle difficult situations with her daughter. She takes her time, stays calm and calls her daughter later to talk about her behavior. Tools and skills for problem-solving and setting rules have helped the family deal with challenges that come their way. Sessions on spending quality time together and praising one another have strengthened Getruda and Tumie’s relationship.

Today, Tumie spends more time at home, shares things openly with her mother and helps with chores around the house.

For Getruda and Tumie, they are living the Faraha group’s slogan: We are stronger together.

Lead photo: Parents and their children join hands at a Faraha workshop.