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World Humanitarian Day: Fighting stigma to save lives

Kede counselling community members

Kede counselling community members in Dogbo

This World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, Plan throws a spotlight on Kede Messouwe – the leader of a determined group of HIV-positive women in Dogbo, Benin, who are fighting stigma to save lives.

Kede’s group work tirelessly to alter traditions at great personal risk, standing up to their families and communities to participate in the development of their villages.

They speak openly of their HIV status and invest tremendous energy in income-generating activities. But above all, they raise awareness of the protocol to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Today, more and more babies in the community are born safely and HIV-positive women are treated with greater respect and care.

The women in the group point to their leader as the heart of the success.

Standing up

Following the death of her husband 8 years ago, Kede was determined to stand-up and be identified as HIV-infected in a society that stigmatizes and isolates HIV-positive people. She decided to create an association with them and for them, which she called "Essonagnon" (Tomorrow will be better).

“When I learned that I was HIV-positive, I decided to face all myths and misunderstandings. I wanted to survive for my son, and give a chance of survival to other mothers and children,” said Kede.

Helping the poorest

She founded a solidarity fund to enable the poorest members of the association to pay for medical expenses and helped create a savings and loan system to provide members with financial independence.

Kede was so committed to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV that the health authorities identified her as a major actor in a project funded by Plan. The project provides drugs, counselling and psychological support to help mothers safeguard their infants.

Healthcare support

Kede pays home visits to ensure that pregnant women are taking their drugs as prescribed by the health agent. Not only does she talk about AIDS but also about the importance of birth registration and schooling children, especially girls.

"I like volunteering to support my peers. AIDS snatched my husband from me and threatened to separate me from my only child, but Plan’s project gave me joy and hope. My greatest reward is to see strong women giving birth to healthy children and also to see families stand together to fight HIV, so that it disappears some day from our world.”

World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day is marked every 19 August to celebrate humanity and the spirit of people helping people.

See the difference you can make by joining Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign to improve girls’ lives.

Find out more and support World Humanitarian Day*.

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