As part of Team Honk, Tanya Barrow has helped raise more than £70,000 for Comic Relief. What’s more, she been to Africa to see how that money is spent. Here she explains to Standard Issue the importance of giving to the charity.
Inspiring might not be the first word you associate with Africa but it is the one which springs to mind whenever I think of the people I have met on my three trips to the continent with Comic Relief. Real change is happening in Africa – and it’s being driven by women. Women with a determination to get themselves out of poverty and provide for their families.
In the words of Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin, sisters are doing for themselves.
Women like Veronica, who has been working at the Virtuous Women’s Bakery in Accra, Ghana, for years.
The bakery does more than simply bake bread, it provides an environment for these women to come together, support one another, earn a living and educate their children.
The bakery receives funding from Comic Relief grants and everywhere you look you can see proof of that money being put to good use: the recently-installed ovens, the 200-loaf tin, the fully-equipped classroom packed with happy, thriving children.
These women are hard at work providing for their families and finding solutions to problems which often prevent many in the UK working. Breastfeeding but want to work? Strap your baby to your back or one of your elder children in the classroom and carry on. I have never come across such a “we can do this” attitude as I have among African women.
Aishetu came to the city after both her parents died, bringing her younger sister with her. They are now living in Agbogbloshie – a former wetland and suburb of Accra – where Aishetu is now running her own hairdressing business from a wooden hut no bigger than a garden shed.
The steps to her business are two old computers stacked on top of each other, bought from the boys running the business next door. Not only does Aishetu run her own hairdressing salon but she trains other girls to do the same and is now earning enough money for her younger sister to go to school. Again, this is all thanks to donations made and training received from Comic Relief-funded projects.
Just last month I visited the Rafiki Project in Kenya where women are buying ingredients from local farmers and using them to make porridge which is then sold on to other families.
The project is not only supporting and running these women’s own businesses but nourishing those other families too. In a country where 1.6 million people are currently affected by HIV, nutrition is very high on many people’s agendas.
This porridge is a vital part of keeping those women alive. They are supported by the Omega Foundation, which trains and supports the women in how to keep financial accounts and distribute their products (there is talk of it now being sold further afield than Kenya).
It wasn’t until I went to Kenya that I learned HIV transference from mother to baby is preventable. With the help of anti retro-viral drugs given at birth, a baby can grow up to be HIV free. This takes awareness, though: an awareness that the mother is HIV positive, something which has long been ignored because women often weren’t tested.
With the help of Mothers2Mothers women are now tested as soon as they come for their first antenatal visit at the hospital. They are given support after diagnosis and taught to take the drugs at set times every day, how to have a healthy sex life (without passing HIV to their partners) and how important nutrition is when it comes to staying healthy. More than three million people living with HIV have been helped since Red Nose Day 2013, but there is still more work to do.
Everywhere you look, in comparison to our standards, these women have very little. Yet they are happy, they are industrious, they have a burning desire to be healthy and to provide for themselves and their families. The only difference between us is that many of us in the UK have a bit more cash.
By donating to Comic Relief we can help these incredible women go from strength to strength and make a real difference to their communities. One of my proudest achievements is knowing that as part of Team Honk (a group of bloggers, many of whom have not even met) we have raised more than £70,000 for Comic Relief in the past three years: money which is already saving lives.
If you give just £5 to Comic Relief this year you could do the same thing.
All photographs by Penny Alexander – www.parentshaped.co.uk829 Views
T, never Tanya please, is a mum of three teens who is trying to live life to the full. @MummyBarrow