Meet our Sewing Mamas


Oliva was married in 1987 and in 1994 her husband became very ill. "Suspecting it was HIV, I carried him to the hospital on my back. I hid along the way so people in my community would not suspect he was sick, it was so shameful to be HIV positive. In 1995 my husband died of complications related to HIV. We had three children and they also died, though I cannot be sure that it was HIV that killed them. In keeping with local tradition I was given three other children to take care of. Such was the shame associated with HIV, it was not until 1999 that I went to get tested, the tests came back positive. I kept the secret of my status for 13 years. I began sewing chair cushions to make enough money to buy food, the work offered little returns, and often I was not paid at all. I also began caring for other sick members of my community. Since joining SEW, I have been able to provide for my family and educate my community about HIV-related issues."


Hadija is 37 years old, has three children and has been a widow since 2003. Hadija found out she was HIV-positive in 2006. Before working at SEW she was a door-to-door hawker selling second-hand children’s clothing. SEW has given Hadija the opportunity to support her family and community.


Jasinta has been HIV+ since 2005 and is an important member of the SEW family. "In 2009 I joined with SEW. It has helped me a lot, now I have the money to care for my family and buy the right foods to help with my condition. I thank God for SEW because it has helped me and women like me so much." 


Halima is an HIV+ SEWing Mama, "SEW has helped me to provide food and clothes for my family and now we can afford to send my children to school. It has made such a difference in my life and in the lives of other women like me."


Happy was born in 1976 in Arusha and was married in 1996. She has 3 sons and lived with her husband until 2004. "He was getting sick and I started to get sick too. That was when I went to get tested for HIV. At the end of 2004 I found out I had HIV. I told my husband but he did not believe me. We got divorced because of that. From there I lived with my children and I was working at my church but they only paid me a small amount a month. Then I joined SEW to sew bags in 2009 and this work has helped me because I am able to provide everything for my children and pay the house rent and also buy things for myself. SEW has helped me a lot.

My husband is very sick and in bed because he had a stroke. He is helped by his family.
My community loves me and I have educated them about HIV they can see my health is going well and are close to me