Biographies

Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet
(Mama Jeni)

I have been living openly with HIV for the past 18 years and have been working as an individual on HIV and AIDS issues since 2003 in Namibia. During this time I managed to create the first support group in Namibia and at a later stage introduced the concept to other Civil Society Organisations.   I revived the Khomas Women in Development when it had collapsed in 1997 and it is still running under the management of a Namibian woman who took over from me.  I also founded Tuyakula Group a group of people living with HIV and Child Hope Initiative through an invitation by the community to start an Orphan and Vulnerable Children programme in the Hakahana community of Katutura. I am proud to say these 2 entities are still running and going from strength to strength since the community took ownership.  I also coordinated an artisan’s project called “the Katutura Artisan’s Project” comprising of women which is now running its own leather shoe making business in Katutura and Ondangwa and once won the Business Women of the year in the Joint Consultative Committee.   I established the Likwama Women Farmers club in the Caprivi Region.  I also assisted the Eudofano Women’s Cooperative which is a village based cooperative which started with 17 women and now has a membership of 8000 paid members in the Northern Region of Namibia in oil processing and marketing of their products, both local and internationally (currently supplying large cosmetic industries in Europe).

I joined the International Community of Women living with HIV (ICW) in August 2005 under the Parliamentarians for Women’s Health project which ICW was a partner in a consortium of 5 international organisations.  Under this project, I have since been working with policy makers (Members of Parliament sitting in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social and Community Development) at parliament in Namibia to advocate for women and girls health, including women living with HIV.  During this time, I have forged close links with Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations, Faith Based Organisations and the private sector in most regions of the country.  I have already created allies with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Ministry of Youth National Service, Sport and Culture, SADC Parliamentary Forum and the UN family in Namibia.

I have created, together with women living with HIV the first network of women living with HIV called Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN).  The founding members of this network were myself, 13 women and girls living with HIV and 80% of this group are youth.  The network was created last year and is now registered under the Regional AIDS Coordinating Committee (RACOC).  I have integrated women and girls from the 13 regions of Namibia into the Namibia Women’s Health Network as a means of reaching women at a grassroots level in the villages.  My next step is to link the committee members of this network to the parliamentarians for monthly engagement and discussions with the MPs on health issues.  I have already influenced the training  (where I also co-trained with outside trainers) of the founding group members of the network and a steering group of the Young Women’s Dialogue on certain skills to meet the standard advocacy requirements and to enhance their skills in advocating and engaging with policy makers.

I have co-facilitated a skills building workshop on sexual reproductive health and rights with Ipas at the Toronto AIDS conference in 2006.  I have also conducted a Training of Trainers on skills building on SRHR last year in Namibia, training women from 6 countries from East and Southern Africa regions.   So far, women from Namibia who were trained on the TOT have gone back to their regions and conducted follow-up outreach workshops with their communities and all of them came out with identified issues in the communities.

Since the inception of ICW in Namibia in August 2005, I have managed to mobilise +1400 members in 7 regions of the country. This is an ongoing process whereby our goal is to reach all the 13 regions.  I have facilitated the creation of the Young Women Dialogue and mentored it through its process by assisting in setting up a steering group.  30 young positive women (representing the 13 regions) who participated in the YWD project have managed to recruit 300 positive women both old and young.

I have influenced two community groups of people living with HIV and AIDS in Katutura on starting community group banking schemes with a focus on economic sustainability for covering funeral costs and monthly nutrition packages for the groups.  The two groups now have fixed savings accounts with NEDBANK.

I am also a trainer on Training of Trainers on Gender, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, AIDS and ME, Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV with a focus on MIPA (Meaningful involvement of PLWHIV), Violence against women and children, community volunteerism and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises.

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