A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Dolls with a Difference

Amy Gillespie is jokingly referred to as ‘sex toy woman’. All very amusing , but her anatomical dolls, (complete with appropriate appendages!), are being used to tackle the HIV crisis in new, culturally appropriate ways.

Amy teaches HIV prevention and basic life skills to teenagers and adults in Chimoio- a town on the main road leading from Zimbabwe to Beira port, a trade route with a higher than average HIV prevalence rate.

Her classes use humour and visual aids as a means to generate discussion and get health messages across. She has also started a survival skills course for orphaned children- teaching everything from basic first aid to road safety. The dolls she used in the classes are produced locally, thus generating jobs and income. She is also branching into producing other survival skills materials such as natural insect repellents and first aid educational posters.

HIV/ Aids is certainly at crisis level here. But so too is basic survival. Children are not taught how to cross a road properly, and there are many road accidents as a result. Malaria is commonplace, but using mosquito nets as a preventative measure, is not. This is something Amy refuses to accept. ‘So many of these deaths are preventable and avoidable’, she said, ‘and there are simple interventions which can be used, which do not cost much’.

When I visited Amy in Chimoio, she was in the process of renovating an old premises, which she will use as training school. She was busy marking out where power sockets are to be located, and told me how the ceiling had to be demolished due to damage by bats. It was a reminder that in this work all types of skills are required. To me, she is Amy ‘jack of all trades’ Gillespie. A brave woman, with enormous amounts of determination. She frequently laughs at her dolls too!


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