Bamboo Chic: Livelihoods in Haiti

In Haiti, HIV-related stigma limits the employment options for people living with HIV.

In focus groups carried in towns in north Haiti, the extent of the stigma was revealed. In one town, over 75% of participants said they wouldn’t employ someone living with HIV for fear of “contamination” and the majority of respondents in Limonade said they would not give a job to someone living with HIV even if they had all of the skills and experience required.

A project funded by The Big Lottery Fund, Champions for Change, is tackling this by creating job opportunities and reducing stigma through craft training.

People infected and affected by HIV have been receiving craft training. The goal is to train people up to a professional level, and capitalise on tourism in northern Haiti. The products have caught the eye of many hotels and tourist shops in Haiti and internationally so the vision is working. Feedback from the initial group is that not only have they learnt the technical skills but their sense of achievement also helps them “feel valued and more confident” and that they are able to “better deal with stigma and discrimination”.

Bamboo bracelets are the main products. We’ve partnered with Aid to Artisans who ran the training to teach people how to work with bamboo, from harvesting the wood at the right time, to treating the wood, cutting and shaping it, and painting and varnishing techniques, through to replanting this sustainable resource.
Bangles produced by people affected by HIV in Haiti  © AllianceIt’s not just the bamboo that’s sustainable. Initially a group of 31 people were selected to be trained. Half of those are now ‘entrepreneur leaders’ who train new groups, and they also work on marketing and selling the products. A percentage of the profit from the sales gets reinvested into a ‘collective pot’ to cover costs and fund the training of the next round of artisans.

Aid to Artisans designer, Lyn Nelson, said: "This may be the most enthusiastic group I have ever worked with. Even after a busy and productive day many trainees are eager to stay longer to learn more! Identifying the right persons for the initial training could not have been better. A great team."

Promoteurs de l’Objectif Zerosida (POZ) is the Alliance Linking Organisation in Haiti. POZ has been active since 1995 to support people living with HIV in Haiti.