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Living with poverty: Zambia

Two participants in Zambia practice an oral testimony interview

Two participants in Zambia practice an oral testimony interview

These testimonies highlight the human and economic costs of the HIV epidemic, and the ways in which it can be both cause and consequence of poverty.

Living with poverty: Zambia testimonies

Anna: strong and hardworking

Anna: 'Even now I am still strong. I do all the work on my own.'

Anna became pregnant when still at school. Her family was tough with her, saying she must pay the price of her “negligent body”. She says that she is grateful as she learned to be strong and hardworking. She later married but her husband is ill and they can’t afford the drugs he needs. Anna believes…

Benson: people need jobs

Benson: 'The biggest problem we come up against is financial assistance'

Benson was a soldier for 32 years and now plays an active role in his community. By saving some money while he was in the army, he managed to buy a few cattle. But now, like everyone else, he is”struggling to make ends meet”. Benson blames the “serious food shortage” arising from bad drought for…

Dominic: valuing tradition

Dominic: 'There is poverty that comes because you have tried and failed'

Dominic describes a harsh childhood. His mother became lame in 1964 and his father left when the children were very young. “Most of the time we went without food,” he says. Dominic had to leave school early and married young in order to help his mother “since she wasn’t that able to cope on her…

Edward: anxiety of poverty

Born in 1938, Edward didn’t go to school until he was 12, and then only for two years. There was little money for education; his father had died and his mother was very sick, having to borrow money for medication. On leaving school, Edward became a farmer. He was impressed by President Kaunda’s government (after…

Gilbert: cattle is wealth

Gilbert: 'If I was a farmer like those with cattle, I would be fine'

Gilbert works as a security guard. He says that things have got steadily worse since the end of President Kaunda’s government (which followed Independence in 1964). He complains that the government provides no assistance apart from paying teachers’ salaries. Gilbert stresses the importance of education and is unhappy that one of his daughters has dropped…

Grandwell: sustained support

After leaving school, Grandwell spent nearly a decade moving between his village and Zambia’s mineral-rich copperbelt area, trying to earn a living. On marrying in 1995 he moved again, and has recently been appointed village headman despite being”someone who has no cattle”. Grandwell is critical of donor agencies, saying that although they do some good…

Mirriam: dedicated to others

Mirriam

Mirriam is in her late 60s – she has been widowed twice and now looks after five grandchildren who have been rejected by their parents. Struggling with degraded land, poor rainfall, loss of livestock and lacking the energy of her youth, she and the children survive mostly on “wild vegetables and roots”. Mirriam is also…

Ruth: a mother’s struggle

Ruth: 'Men are the ones who are always spearheading activities...'

Ruth first became pregnant when she applied to nursing college. She postponed her further education and gave up on it completely when, just six months after giving birth, she discovered she was pregnant again. Her partner later left her because he wanted a wife with a job, taking their children with him. In a cruel…

Sara: coping without family

Sara Mutina

Sara is over 80 years old and has no family: she was an orphan from birth, has been widowed twice and lost both her children. She has almost no belongings and no resources of her own. Although she has no relatives to look after her, people in her village help her in various ways –…

Utrina: working the land

Utrina sells her own vegetables and trades in charcoal and cloth when she can. Her family can afford to buy fertiliser, and she has a bicycle to take produce to market. She’s also an active member of savings and craft clubs. Although she is better off than some, life is a struggle. Food production has…

Warren: the HIV burden

Warren: 'There's still a need to sensitise people [to HIV and AIDS]'

Warren has been Resident Development Chairman since 2003. He stresses the difference it would make to his community to have clean water. He also started a community school and taught for two years without pay before the arrival of a trained teacher (paid for by the Ministry) who is now the head. He talks about…

Grace: an open approach

Grace is HIV positive. She looks after her mother, who is completely disabled and is separated from her father – a traditional healer who earned very little money. Her stepfather has been good to Grace’s mother and her children. Life has improved as Grace and her brothers have managed to get help with cultivation, buy…

Testimonies

Anna: strong and hardworking

Benson: people need jobs

Dominic: valuing tradition

Edward: anxiety of poverty

Gilbert: cattle is wealth

Grandwell: sustained support

Mirriam: dedicated to others

Ruth: a mother’s struggle

Sara: coping without family

Utrina: working the land

Warren: the HIV burden

Grace: an open approach

Key themes

Introduction to the project

HIV and AIDS

Food security

Agriculture

Water and drought

Development

Survival strategies

Self-help and community support

Gender

Loans and debt

Political representation

The cycle of poverty

Education