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Investing in Resilient Women Like Marjorie

We have spent more than 15 years working at the nexus of conservation and development. What we’ve learned is that progress—improved community well-being, sustainably managed natural resources, and conservation—cannot be made without the commitment of resilient individuals.

Resilient individuals form resilient communities that make for a more resilient world.

We believe—like all of our colleagues at Pathfinder International—that we need to invest in women and girls, in particular, to be more resilient. Women hold families and communities together. With resilience, they can be the innovators, leaders, and change-makers who drive progress.

This is why the population, health, and environment programs we have worked on at Pathfinder International invest in reaching individuals like Marjorie.

Marjorie with her child


Marjorie, 19 years old, lives on Uganda’s Zinga Island, in the middle of Lake Victoria. Travel to the mainland is expensive, so like most people on the island, she rarely leaves.

Marjorie was born HIV positive and has taken antiretrovirals her whole life. Although she had been healthy for many years, about four years ago, the other students at her school found out her status and started to give her a hard time.

“They would laugh at me and make me feel miserable and rejected,” she said.

Worried that someone might see her taking her medication, she stopped taking it. She fell ill, so ill that she had to drop out of school.

She eventually got better, but she never went back to school. The stigma of having HIV was too much for her to face. She remained isolated in her community, hidden so as to not deal with the shame—until she became pregnant and found a mamas club through Pathfinder’s Health of the People in the Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) Project.

The mamas, in this case, are young mothers who are HIV positive like Marjorie.

Pathfinder forms clubs like these because young mothers are some of the most marginalized in their communities. Many are single young women. Others have been ostracized from their communities for having a child at a very young age. They lack a social support network, and, like Marjorie, most have limited education and few economic options.

When the young mothers get together, they talk about the challenges they are facing: limited livelihood options, difficulty accessing quality health services, keeping their families healthy. Pathfinder works with them to tackle these challenges—building their resilience.

With support from the mamas club, Marjorie has become a community leader, encouraging others to join the club and empower themselves. She is what we call a model household leader. She opens her house to others in the community, demonstrating how she has incorporated positive health and natural resource management behaviors in her household.

Marjorie helps other young mothers to improve hygiene and sanitation in their homes. She advocates for deliveries at health facilities, family planning, immunization of children, HIV prevention and support for those who are positive, and sustainable agriculture and tree planting.  She reaches out to peers and empowers HIV-positive young mothers, among others, to maintain healthy and happy lives.

Marjorie has become a more resilient woman through her involvement with HoPE-LVB, and in becoming so, she is contributing to the resilience and health of her whole community and the environment in which she lives.

Women like Marjorie are why our population, health, and environment programs succeed.

In addition to the HoPE-LVB Project in Uganda and Kenya, Pathfinder leads several population, health, and environment programs in Tanzania. Learn more about our partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Jane Goodall Institute to build the resilience of women and girls in western Tanzania