In Ethiopia, like many other areas of the world, there is a prominent stigma around HIV. Many who test positive are isolated from their communities and make their way to Entoto, a mountain north of the country’s capital, where Ethiopian Orthodox priests offer holy water to heal the sick. While waiting to be cured by the water, they often turn to begging on the streets to survive.
The artisan group we partner with restores dignity and self-esteem to these HIV-positive women through employment opportunities. They transform local materials like recycled bullet casings and reused artillery shells into unique and beautiful jewelry.
Amelset’s Story is best told in her own words:
“My family and I used to live in the city. We heard on TV about HIV. My husband was sick a lot so he decided to get tested. He found out he was positive, and so I got tested. I was positive as well. Our children were scared to go to school because of the stigma so we sold everything and moved to Entoto where there is no discrimination. Almost everyone hereis living with HIV/AIDS, which makes us feel less outcast. I used to beg on the mountain. I stayed there for the holy water. My life was very bad, begging is like being dead. My husband started to help at the cooperative and he introduced me to them. I am so thankful for the opportunity. In the beginning I was frustrated because it was very complicated making jewelry. Now I am happy when I come to work. My heart and eyes are open. My life has been changed because of this program. Now you can go to my home and there is food there. Thinking about this makes me want to cry. I know God helped you to help me and now I am changed.”