33-year-old Barbara Kemigisa is a true definition of a strong woman determined to make an impact in her world. Sexually assaulted at the age of 6 by uncles who paid her off with pancakes, Barbara developed a wild lifestyle with multiple sex partners, later testing positive to HIV as a teenager. Today, she has managed to put her life together uplifting others as well.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Now an artist, counselor, HIV crusader and spokesperson for many organisations, she uses discarded ARV bottles and leftover tablets to create artworks, to encourage people to take their medicine and to promote safe sex and regular testing.⠀⠀⠀
As an HIV activist, Barbara uses her story to inspire, mentor and engage children and youths infected with the HIV virus. So far, she has impacted over 50,000 youths through different media platforms.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
She founded the Pill Power Uganda, a project dedicated to training individuals living with HIV/Aids to recycle empty ARVs tins into useful objects.
Her recycling initiative has been adopted by 6 youth groups in Uganda which has led to the reduction of plastic ARV bottles in the environment.
Pill Power also enables vulnerable youths and children enjoy a safe and friendly environment for personal growth, peer interaction and capacity building. We sat down with Barbara to understand what drives her vision and here is what she had to say.
Barbara Kemigisa is an Ugandan HIV activist turning empty medication bottles in to pieces of art. I am a motivational speaker living with HIV. As a victim of sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy and rejection, I use my story to inspire, mentor and engage children and youth infected and vulnerable to HIV, to create a safe, healthy and empowered generation.
I am also the Founder of Pill Power Uganda, an organization that enables vulnerable youth and children enjoy a safe and friendly environment for personal growth, peer interaction and capacity building in skills like farming, recycling, art and crafts, music, dance, drama, and community service. Using my victory crown made of ARV bottles and left over pills, I encourage girls living with HIV not to give up on their dreams.
Seeing many youths especially the girl child being neglected, battling diseases on their own at a tender age, societal stigma and discrimination, among other things compelled me to use my story to encourage those like me but also warn those not yet like me to make better choices.
PILL POWER UGANDA
Pill Power Uganda promotes HIV treatment and care as well as support children and youths living with HIV to break barriers to positive living.
The project also helps to protect the environment against the harm from used empty ARV bottles. The same bottles have become communication tools in creating HIV awareness as well create souvenirs for those grateful for what treatment has done in their lives and have stories to tell.
Pill Power was inspired by my story after getting married to an HIV negative husband and giving birth to an HIV negative child. All this was possible by the power of the pill after following its prescription carefully.
CHALLENGES EXPERIENCED WHILE RUNNING PILL POWER UGANDA
The major challenge has to be funding. I have found creative ways to raise money like selling the recycled products, organizing talks for a cause and different people paying as way to support. Taking up speaking engagements has also helped.
MILESTONES/IMPACT PILL POWER HAS RECORDED SO FAR
ARV bottles are no longer discarded anyhow. Now, they are recycled and use to fuel our advocacy. The people that came to me contemplating suicide, those whose families had given up on them, the girls and boys who thought would never get married and today have families. That, I also consider a major milestone.
Furthermore, my advocacy has impacted and shaped my parenting significantly. My children are a testimony of the parent I am. I am more resolute about giving them everything I ever wanted or expected from my parents and couldn’t get.
ON LIFE PHILOSOPHY
Though you have been hated and rejected so that none can go through you, I will make you an everlasting pride, a joy of many generations.
TO WOMEN, ON LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE
Love yourself. Every woman ought to love and believe in who they are; that is give yourself a ‘True Love’s Kiss’ we don’t have to wait for a prince charming as he only exists in fairy tales.
True love lies in our hearts and when we do that, the world cannot resist us because everything about is love, kindness, forgiveness, being brave and fighting and of course making tough decisions. Let’s wear our victory crowns because we have overcome tough times and let’s cheer each other up.
3 THINGS ON YOUR GRATITUDE LIST
God’s blessings and word.
My past- everything that happened and everything I have become.
Supportive husband, kids, mum and friends that have believed in me all these years.
TO THE WOMEN LIVING WITH HIV
Let’s give love, forgive and care for one another. Our children are everything we are and let them be the mirror we look at and perfect our every selves in character and values. Beautiful lady out there, know that your life is yours and no matter how people will care and love you, you still have to do the biggest part of love and care for yourself.
You cannot live HIV positive on your own. I encourage you to make friends and learn from each other how to best live positively.
The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who have demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.
The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.