An NGO in Somaliland working with people who have been abandoned by their families because of HIV and AIDS, has won a prestigious human rights award.
Talowadag, which means ‘in consultation with one another,’ has given counselling and support to more than 1,500 people affected by HIV or AIDS in its first four years. Most of the people they help are women living in poverty.
The International Service award for the Defence of the Right to Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare recognises the vital role Talowadag plays in overcoming the entrenched discrimination and stigma linked to HIV and AIDS in Somaliland.
Talowadag works in partnership with the Catholic charity Progressio, among others, and Progressio (formerly the Catholic Institute for International Relations) is publicising its work globally.
“We began our work with one lady who lived in a shack, having been thrown out of her home by her family,” says Director Guleid Abdi. “Today we care for people who have HIV and AIDS, we sit and eat with them, we touch them. When others see this, it sends a powerful signal to them.”
Unable to travel to the UK to collect the award, Abdi said it nevertheless would represent a significant boost for Talowadag’s mission to overcome stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS.
“For Talowadag, winning this prize is a great encouragement for us to scale up ongoing initiatives to reverse the spread of HIV and improve the standard of life of those who are already infected or affected by HIV and AIDS,” said Abdi.
Steve Kibble from Progressio who received the award on behalf of Guleid, said: “Talowadag is an organisation that really sticks its neck out in seeking to overcome discrimination around HIV and AIDS.”
Talowadag’s work includes providing home-based care and education for communities on how to take responsibility of their sexual health in order to avoid infection. They also have support groups which offer a place for people affected by HIV and AIDS to share their experiences and receive emotional care.
The Talowadag Coalition also work with religious and clan leaders to address the cultural practices and attitudes that have discriminated against those with HIV and AIDS.
The annual Human Rights Awards, held by UK development agency, International Service, recognises the achievements of organisations and individuals around the world working at a grassroots level to promote human rights and change the things which cause people to be excluded, impoverished or disempowered.
More information about IS at: www.internationalservice.org.uk 
More on Progressio: www.progressio.org.uk