Tamanya Luhana was barely 20 years old when she was raped and became pregnant. She says police didn’t believe her and some relatives didn’t support her. But her mother helped her learn to love her baby girl, Twambo, born in 1998 – and then, within months, her mother was dead, and her father not long after. Tamanya was left to care for her five younger siblings as well as her baby.
After the rape, Tamanya says, “I never felt that I mattered” – until she fell in love with Kegwin, the man she married in 2002. “I didn’t have knowledge of HIV so was not aware of the need to be tested,” she says now. “I got married with no testing” – and in two years of marriage she endured three miscarriages and one child dying at birth. In 2004, Kegwin died; after death, he was confirmed HIV-positive.
After Kegwin’s death, Tamanya says, his relatives took her money and property; she moved in with a sister. The next two years brought a tuberculosis diagnosis, treatment that left her still feeling ill – and, in 2006, a positive HIV test. When her sister left town and Tamanya became homeless, she sold family heirlooms – including her late father’s chairs – to get rent money. The windowless, one-room house she could afford flooded when it rained. Tamanya tried to stay on her antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) but often had no food to take them with, or to feed Twambo.
Since early 2007 when she learned to make jewelry, Tamanya says she has never had to skip a meal. She has money to support Twambo, who’s living with an aunt an hour from Lusaka so she can attend a good school. Tamanya says being part of The ABATAKA Collection project “makes me feel that I can live, that I can provide for my family – that I am able to do things without asking other people for help.” She works now as a peer educator, going into the community to counsel HIV-positive children. “I love the job,” she says – helping children ages 7-17 deal with their illness “and making them feel that they are loved.”