Lerato , Berea

How a young woman found hope despite being raped by her father as a child

She was traumatized by her father raping her from the age of 13 until he was caught when she was 15 years old. At school she had to repeat Form B three times – not because she was not smart, but because she was barred from sitting exams due to unpaid school fees. It is not hard to see why Lerato, now 22, believed her future was gloomy. A single mother of two, she lives with her father. He served one year in jail for sexually assaulting her. Her mother had died when she was 9 years old. Despite such difficult odds, her outlook has now changed for the better. “My father does not cease to remind me how I have brought two fatherless children into our home” Lerato says. Her father served time in jail for raping her repeatedly in her teens.

Lerato was invited to take part in a workshop on GBV and economic empowerment, held in Maseru district with support from UNFPA. “I needed the counselling,” she explains. “My father supports me and my children as I am not employed, but he never ceases to remind me how I have brought two fatherless children into our home.

Since attending the workshop, Lerato is able to envision a brighter future for herself.  She feels she acquired sufficient skills to be able to start a small business of selling secondhand clothes – if she is able to raise enough funds to purchase the stock, that is. The training Lerato received not only helped her identify a market for goods to sell. It also empowered her with valuable information on the different forms of GBV, and provided her with counselling, something that she realizes she greatly needed.  

Once her business is up and running, she believes she will be able to take care of her children and her siblings.

The training she attended forms part of activities under the DFID-funded Joint Programme that supported the survivors of gender-based violence, following the El Niño-induced drought in 2015-2016.

Anonymous , Berea

"So No Mother Ever Has to Lose a Baby Like That Again":

Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Boosting Nutrition, via Mother-to-Mother Support


Ha Khabo, Lesotho. 12 October, 2017—Each of the 14 young mothers in the room today has been through some version of a life-changing experience: She has walked through the door of a health centre like this one. She has taken a pregnancy test. She has learned that she is pregnant.

And then she has learned—in what felt like the very next breath— that she has also tested positive for HIV.

Lesotho has the highest HIV infection rate on earth. One in four adults here lives with HIV. Preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, both during and after pregnancy, is vital to creating a Lesotho—and a world—that is free of HIV. And support groups like this one, which is led by the NGO mothers2mothers (M2M) with UNICEF support, are an essential part of PMTCT.

"Look how healthy our babies are. How happy!" says one mother. Her breastfeeding baby wears a striped cap over chubby cheeks. He rubs his eyes with one small fist, groggy with milk.

Every baby and toddler in this room today is HIV-free—whatever the mothers' HIV status. And each has been breastfed from birth until now, enjoying all the benefits that come with breastfeeding.

A sign on the wall sums it up: "Start free, stay free, AIDS free." That is, ensure that babies start their lives HIV-free. Keep them free of HIV as they grow into toddlers and beyond, regardless of their mothers' HIV status. And protect both babies and mothers—whether they are living with HIV or not—from developing AIDS. So far, the mothers in this room have managed to do just that, thanks to a lifesaving and intricately coordinated combination of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment protocols; nutrition, including breastfeeding; preventative medicine for the infants; life-skills training; education; awareness; destigmatization; and support groups like this one. But most of all, it's thanks to the mothers themselves, who—like any loving mother—will do just about anything to give their babies a good start in life and help them grow up healthy.

"You can see we are taking our ARV treatment. Look how beautiful we are now!" jokes one 27-year-old mother, who glows with pride as she pats her own round cheek. "But if I hadn't met M2M, it wouldn't be easy to take my ARVs. Or to tell my husband my status."

"At first, I was afraid my husband would divorce me," says another mother, who is 26 years old.

"Ey-a," agrees the round-cheeked mother. "The education and support made it possible. Because I knew about it myself, it was much easier to tell my husband, 'I'm HIV-positive.' And that means we can both protect our baby."

These days, the mothers know a lot about protecting their babies from HIV, and the support from other mothers in the same situation is clearly invaluable. But there is a lot to know—and some of it was initially misunderstood even by trained healthcare professionals themselves.