Actress and hairdresser — both stars

A year ago, I traveled with the international health organization PSI to Zimbabwe. There I saw the work that PSI and other organizations do and the tremendous impact that they have. In just seven years, the HIV prevalence rate fell from over 24 percent to less than 14 percent. I met some truly incredible people, lifelong friends.

One of the most inspiring was Tears Wenzira, a hairdresser living in Chitungwiza, a small town 18 miles from Zimbabwe’s capital. Tears educates her clients on the female condom and how to correctly use it to prevent HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted illnesses and pregnancy. The program, called “Weaving Braids, Not AIDS,” trains hairdressers throughout the country to educate their clients about HIV. Peer-educator hairdressers demonstrate the condom and encourage their clients to use them. They also sell the product.

Seeing Tears in action was a thing of wonder. Her vivacity, humor and enthusiasm were unrivalled and we became fast friends. In honor of World AIDS Day, I decided it was time for the world to know Ms. Tears Wenzira.

Tell me how you came to be a peer educator.

Before moving to Chitungwiza, I was working as a hairdresser in my rural home. I’d dropped out of school to help support my family after my parents died. It was in 2006 that I was first approached by a PSI field officer. After she introduced the female condom to me, I realized there was a need for me to reach out to other women. … HIV had impacted my life as well; I had lost one of my sisters to HIV, and the other one had recently tested HIV positive.

How has being a peer educator helped you?

I am now an eloquent speaker. Being a peer educator has taught me that no matter how much or little education you have, you can help other women as long as you are trained and equipped with the right knowledge. Recently, I delivered a speech on female condoms at a PSI event which was attended by the minister of health, the U.S. ambassador and many other female dignitaries. I felt so empowered to speak in front of these powerful people.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome.


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