Social cash transfer: Margaret Bikyele HIV positive single mother
Head of household: Margaret Bikyele, HIV positive single mother
Social cash transfer assistance: 2,000 kwacha per month ($14.30)
Lilongwe, December 2007- Gaelle Sevenier. “I am the mother of two boys and I was diagnosed as HIV positive in 2005,” says Margaret Bikyele. “Since my husband passed a few years ago, I am the only breadwinner of the family. When I had no work, I had to beg for money.”
“Because of my illness, people would not eat the food I cooked, nor help me in the house.”
Due to her illness, Margaret was forced to give up her work as a caregiver for pre-school children, and was condemned to beg for survival.
For years, Margaret struggled to provide enough food for her children. She was tired most of the time from her disease and suffered from the stigma of HIV. Most of the people in her village turned away from her.
Her son Bickir, 10 years old, is a bright little boy who wants to grow up fast. He wants to become just like his older brother, who is studying very hard, so that the family can one day get out of poverty.
She could not benefit from the government’s free ARV treatment because she didn’t have the 60 Kwacha (US $0.43) to take the bus to the nearest health clinic.
In September 2006 the HIV positive mother and her two children qualified for the Malawi government’s social cash transfer pilot scheme. It provides the family with a small monthly income that has done wonders.
“With the social cash transfer, we bought a goat. We called it Muaye, which means ‘fortune’. The goat is pregnant now.”
After a year on the scheme, Margaret was able to build her very own house, to purchase school kits for her children, and to buy a radio, a goat and some chickens. The oldest child is now at boarding school, while the youngest one is still in primary school. As soon as the new payment comes, she wants to reinforce the roof with iron sheets so that her children can stay dry in the rainy season.
The social cash transfer scheme has helped Margaret to overcome a past full of hardship and to build a new life and future. She is now receiving ARV treatment and is feeling less tired. Her neighbours also respect her more now that she can provide for her family. Today she is a proud and resourceful woman. With the little money she receives, she has invested in her very own business – buying and selling fish in her village.
“When I listen to my new radio, I like to hear programmes concerning HIV positive people. They give advice on how people with HIV can live long. I want to live long.”
“Since I have my own business I feel respected,” says the single mother enthusiastically. “The cash transfers have renewed my hope in the children’s future. In the past I could not send them to school, and I was worried all the time. Today I am able to send my kids to school with food in their stomachs, and books in their hands, and I know that with proper education they will be fine.”