Zambian tailor wins AIDS award for providing orphans with free school uniforms

Zambian tailor wins AIDS award for providing orphans with free school uniforms

Six years after a teenage Zambian tailor started using his only sewing machine to make free school uniforms for AIDS orphans, the organization he founded has become one of the first winners of a United Nations prize to honour community groups on the front line of the global fight against the pandemic.

Mboole Rural Development, the group founded in southern Zambia by Jonsen Habachimba, is one of five local AIDS activist groups that will receive a Red Ribbon grand prize of $20,000 tomorrow, which is World AIDS Day. Another 20 community organizations will get $5,000.

Then 18, Mr. Habachimba began sewing free uniforms for local orphans using funds he had generated from his business as a tailor. This year Mboole Rural Development gave uniforms to 41 children so they could continue their education.

The prize money from the Red Ribbon award could mean that as many as 100 free uniforms could be provided next year, along with free shoes and school books, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a statement today. It will also allow Mboole to buy more sewing machines and train more young people to help do the work.

Elhadj As Sy, Director of the UNDP HIV and AIDS Group, hailed the work of Mboole and the other winners as examples of how local groups are tackling the broader public effects of AIDS – such as disrupting education and aggravating poverty – beyond the already enormous impact it has on an individual’s health.

“The work these communities do is inspirational and essential, as halting and reversing the epidemic will require intensified efforts by all actors, and more effective integration of AIDS priorities into wider development efforts,” he said.

The other major winners are: the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS; the All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a lobbying group; the Girl Child Network of Zimbabwe, which counsels and supports girls in rural areas; and Bangladesh’s Durjoy Nari Shongo, a project that educates and advocates for sex workers and their families.

The winners were chosen by an international jury that included the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, the UNAIDS Special Representative Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and the actress Naomi Watts.