By ORTON KIISHWEKO, 28th December 2011 @ 15:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 3592
FLORA Kipanga has been one of the leading lights of peer education in Mlaro Soni, in Tanga Region. She was one of a first peer educators trained by the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) last year on how to contribute to the Campaign on Disability and HIV/AIDS to provide equal access for persons with disabilities to information and services on HIV/AIDS.
A 24 year old girl with albinism, she took charge of a group of students who are both normal and living with disabilities in Lushoto. When she was first introduced into the peer education calling as part of the CCBRT project last year, she says she subsequently returned home to stear her group at Mlaro Soni area with admirable vigour. Innitially, her lessons served 45 students in its first six months and there seemed only one way to go – ‘up’, she says.
“My first mission was understanding the fears of colleagues living with disabilities(PLDs) first,’ she says. She notes that many of the fellow PLDs initially feared to access testing and counselling services because they did not feel a part of the system. “They never saw a place for themselves in there, ”she notes.
Now, however, she says that those who have benefited from some of her classes have been able to change attitude. “We are trying to get more members benefiting from these trainings, whether in schools or out and it is a struggle we are committed to,” she says. The case of Flora Kipanga is similar to other 5 peer educators who went through a similar training under CCBRT in Dar es Salaam last year.
Christina Aperesi 24, trains from classes at Bumbuli, Mamood Saleh 22 who trains from Lushoto secondary school in Tanga and Hatibu Hasheem 22 who handles 25 pupils per session at Itente primary school. During a Peer education session with pupils and Educator Hatibu Hasheem, the pupils exuded high sense of standards.
But the fact that the numbers of PLDs still accessing VCT services at health centres is a telling reminder of how much work there is still to do to change attitudes of families which live with them, the PLDs and making physical structures of more health facilities user friendly to PLDs.
With the peer educators’ passionate pursuit of their work and their understanding of the dynamics of their communities, the other four peer educators say more of their colleagues are receptive to their education.
She gives an example of how she had her two albino friends with a negative attitude towards VCT, but her training was able to change them and access health centres for the same services. “Many of these PLDs expressed fears of a double stigma in case they were to be found positive, ‘ meaning that they had double stigma,” she says. Others just resented it because they were not aware of how important it was for them.
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