MANERELA+ scoops prestigious regional award

The Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with HIV/AIDS (MANERELA+) Thursday scooped the 2016 AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) HIV, TB and Human Rights award at a ceremony held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

ARASA former Acting Executive Director, Bruce Tushabe (l), Pastor  Mataka (c), and ARASA Director, Michaela Clayton (r) pose for a photo (Pic. Courtesy of ARASA)

ARASA former Acting Executive Director, Bruce Tushabe (l), Pastor Mataka (c), and ARASA Director, Michaela Clayton (r) pose for a photo (Pic. Courtesy of ARASA)

Pastor Mataka, MANERELA+ Vice Chair, displays the  ARASA trophy  (Pic. Courtesy of ARASA)

Pastor Mataka, MANERELA+ Vice Chair, displays the ARASA trophy (Pic. Courtesy of ARASA)

ARASA is a partnership of 106 civil society organizations working together to promote a human rights based response to HIV and TB in southern and east Africa.

A statement from ARASA says MANERELA+ was presented the award at the end of the Alliance’s Annual Partnership Forum on Thursday evening for the organisation’s inclusive approach in dealing with stigma and discrimination.

“The vast majority of Malawians prescribe to some religion, and lesbian, gay, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) people are often regarded as being cursed or satanic by communities,” notes the statement.

“MANERELA+ is the only faith based organization in Malawi that is advocating for the human rights of LGBTI groups, including repealing of discriminatory laws, in very challenging circumstances.”

MANERELA+, is a Malawian interfaith and voluntary membership network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS.

The organization works to reduce stigma, silence, denial, discrimination, inaction, and mis-action through the promotion and involvement of the faith community.

According to ARASA’s Director, Michaela Clayton, who is quoted in the statement, the award was established in 2007 to recognize and support organizations across southern and eastern Africa to highlight the ground-breaking work undertaken by the organizations to protect human rights, often in extremely challenging political climates.

The statement quotes MANELERA+ Vice Chairperson, Pastor Anderson Mataka, to have said: “This award will help religious leaders recognize their potential of being role models to advocate for all people living with HIV to be accepted in our communities, including people of all sexual orientations.”

MANERELA+ has also facilitated the establishment of church and mosque-based HIV support groups in 20 districts of Malawi, supporting them with trainings and referral linkages.

The faith-based organization has also established peer pressure groups and advocacy committees in the districts to advocate for TB and HIV services to be made accessible to all.

The ARASA annual event provides an opportunity for the ARASA’s 106 partners to review the status of HIV, TB and human Rights in the region, and identify emerging human rights challenges for targeted responses in the next year.

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