Dumela, everyone. I am so sorry in advance for how late I am in posting this week. It has been hectic here – I just finished applying for graduate schools on top of a full weekend of work downtown.
And a second apology – this will be a short entry (perhaps it will somehow even-out last week’s longer one?) because of my time constraint today. I’m going to discuss here Frederick Klaits’ article entitled “Faith and the Intersubjectivity of Care in Botswana.” For those folks at home who’d like to read along (sorry, I’ve always wanted to say that), click here.
Klaits first points out that besides the HIV/AIDS epidemic itself, there is another crisis: the caregiving crisis. He says that AIDS control policies also need to focus on compassion in caregiving.
Klaits’ research, in many ways, is reminiscent of my own summer research in Ecuador. His was centered around a Pentecostal church community whose founder was taken to psychiatric hospital because kin thought they were experiencing mental illness: so was mine. His interactions with the community were conducted almost entirely in Setswana: mine, in Spanish. He made use of classic anthropological methodology (formal, informal interviews, confidentiality policies), as did I. Lastly, he first came to Gaborone with a slightly different research intention than what he delivered, based on unforeseen circumstances while in the country. You guessed it, same for me. Ok, enough pointing out our similar research projects! I just wanted to show that I connected with this article because of its familiar story and first-person (almost ethnographic) writing style that delivered me into his world of research.
Klaits remarks on the period of 1997-1998:
“…no effective therapies were available to the vast majority of Botswana’s citizens, and church members were attending funerals…on many weekends” (2009: 5)
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s reflective of the general premise behind Saturday is for Funerals. Throughout the article, Klaits discusses the founder of the Baitshepi Church, MmaMaipelo. He says that she resisted preaching about safe sex or abstinence and neither encouraged nor discouraged sexual acts. Instead, she fostered an environment of lerato (love) as a spiritual mother.
Many don’t want to reveal their HIV-positive status on account of their embarrassment or avoidance to burden family members. MmaMaipelo (and Klaits, himself, it seems) encourage those infected to reveal so that they know they will have a circle of lerato and the support of the community. Locally, compassionate caregiving may be more important than positive medical improvement, according to Klaits. Revealing one’s status will also encourage a transition from victim to agent, especially for females. As far as extramarital affair go, instead of remaining silent in order to avoid drama with the man or man’s family, women should reveal their statuses and talk to the other women in the man’s life to possibly avoid further spread of the disease.
Again, an apology on the scattered thoughts here this week. I will edit this post if I have time, but if not, look forward to next week!
Tsamaya sentle – Goodbye
This week I’ll leave you with something that just makes me smile. It’s a wedding party performing a dance for a Tswana wedding. Full of energy, it’s an insight into something we’ve been reading about lately. I hope it can make you smile, too. Click on the thumbnail to access the video.
If I understand your blog correctly, lerato is compassionate care. Lerato is what some American church communities practice through their various mission and outreach activities, although those activities are not necessarily embraced by entire congregations. I can understand why lerato may be as important as physical care with a disease like HIV/AIDS. This disease is particularly devastating because shame and embarrassment are inextricably linked to the victims as well as their families.
On a personal note, I am well aware of stigma associated with disease. There is mental illness in my family–its not something I readily admit to. There are few people outside my family who know this, and even then, I only talk of it during a crisis. I am not personally acquainted with anyone with HIV/AIDS, and can only imagine the stigma and isolation they and their families experience (especially in the United States).
Fostering lerato may be as important as access to adequate medical care, drug therapies, and frank discussion about the disease, its causes, and prevention.
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