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Monday, 30 June 2014 08:43

The Story of Nardos Mamo - Betengna’s Welcomed Guest

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She was now helping her mother financially. Her life had changed. Although she hadn't stopped going to school, she was missing classes and her grades were going down.

One day, out of the blue, he asked her to buy a dress fit for a great occasion and invite her closest friends to the city hall. The reason, he said, he was going to be featured in a theatre act at the city hall.

Nardos and her friends were excited. They went to Mercato to buy dresses when she saw pictures of her boyfriend on posters all over music shops. Why was he famous? She didn't understand. What was his job? She didn't know. She didn't care much.

At the city hall, he was wearing a suit and waiting for them with some of his friends. He told her right then and there that he wanted to tie the knot with her and that was the reason he had called them to be there. Nardos was surprised but happy with the proposal. She agreed to marry him. Nardos officially got married.

That day she returned home to her mother. He had not prepared a home for them yet. Nardos was not happy to be living with her mother after marriage. She thought it was not customary and wanted something of her own.

It was after some time, that he surprised her with a fully furnished rented house. Nardos felt loved, she thought she had the best husband ever.

Now that they were living together, her husband's friends also came to work with him in a room he had prepared for this purpose. The room was furnished with mattresses fit for chewing chat and writing songs. All kinds of people came, famous singers, songwriters, pretty women.

When the women came, they hugged him and kissed him affectionately. She was jealous. She wanted to dress like them and look like them. But her husband always reassured her saying that it was artists' character to act the way they do. He encouraged her to stay the same.

As time went by, however, the women who came to visit her husband were beginning to openly display their affections for him. And this was bothering her. They went into the room where they worked and spent hours laughing with her husband. The women sometimes called at night and talked to her husband. His responses over the phone, although vague, were playing on Nardos' imagination. It seemed they were telling him they loved him. It was unbearable.

When she confronted her husband about it, he was always dismissive. He told her they meant nothing to him and that she was the love of his life. He kept on telling her that it was their character to be so flamboyant. She was nonetheless uncomfortable by their visits and asked him to shift his work place somewhere else. He agreed.

When they were together, he poured all his attention on her. At those times all things seemed unimportant. She stayed with him. There was no one else she knew anyway. He was the one who showed her the good life. He was her real first love. Her house was full, they had everything. When she went shopping, he always encouraged her to shop for her mother too. He would give her extra money to give to her mother. All these caused her to trust him and to stay with him.

One day, when she was pregnant with her second child, as she was returning home she finds him on the bed with one of his girl friends. Shocked by what she saw, she ran away to her friend's house and told her what had happened. Her friend was not helpful. She was not telling her what Nardos wanted to hear. She kept on telling her that it was normal for husbands to cheat on their wives. She told her to also do the same. Nardos was angry. She was not happy to have left her home.

The next day, his male friends looked for her and found her. They begged her to return home. They told her that it was her eyes and that he had not committed anything with the woman. They convinced her. She believed them.

After her return, her husband was giving her a lot of attention. Her due date was near and so she gave birth. He would not leave her side. He was very caring. She thought, she really must have been wrong to think that her husband would cheat on her. Nardos was glad that she had returned home. And to think that she was going to leave him, she thought it was laughable.

As time went by, though, things with her husband were getting worse. He was coming home late. There were even days when he spent the night out. He said it was for work. Nardos' imagination was going wild. They were always fighting. She was growing extremely unhappy. She didn't know what was happening to them.

They were in this condition when the final blow came.

She had gone to church as usual. This time though, she decided to return home after a short prayer. Her return was unexpected. When she returned home, the maid was not there and the gate was open. Nardos entered into the house and went into the room where her husband worked without much thought. This was when she found him with another woman. It was an unforgettable and heart-wrenching encounter for Nardos. That was it. Her husband was cheating on her.

Nardos left home.

This is an audio excerpt from Nardos Debebe's (not her real name) radio diary transmitted on Betengna radio diaries in thirty nine episodes on Sheger FM 102. 1. Her real life story had captivated many listeners. Besides the ones who tuned in to the radio transmission, thousands had downloaded the episodes from the Betengna website.

According to Sosina, the producer, Nardos changed her name and did not disclose most of the names in her story for fear of being stigmatized. Nardos was HIV positive and her husband who had grown to be a famous songwriter had died of AIDS leaving her with three children. She was telling her story not only because it was cathartic, but also because she wanted to be inspirational to many who were in and were passing through similar situations.

Chuchu, one of Betengna's avid listeners, got introduced to the radio program in 2005 through its unique captivating radio format. He says "since then I've learned from it and have taught many through it".

When he was listening to Nardos' story, he was able to learn about HIV in detail. He said "I went for HIV testing for the second time".

Betengna radio diaries goes back in time into the lives of the diarists to show that those who are infected with HIV are ordinary people like everybody else. It portrays the ordinariness of their day-to-day lives and what elements exposed them to HIV. By so doing it evoked empathy and understanding. The program is also educational. In addition to the real life stories, the follow-up programs discussed many social and health issues.

The radio diaries program, a project of the Johns Hopkins School of public health – Center for Communication programs, began its operation in 2005 in Amharic for Addis Ababans and soon broadened its scope into four of the major regions: Oromia, SNNPR, Amhara and Tigray regional states. Betengna programs were being broadcast in Afan Oromo, Amharic and Tigrigna using region specific tones by diarists who lived in the respective regions.

Unfortunately however, AIDS Resource Center's Betengna program which was designed to present a unique insight into what it means to be HIV positive in Ethiopia was forced to close its doors due to funding re-alignment.

The impact that Betengna had on people living with HIV and those uninfected was enormous. Sosena says that many had found solace through the radio program. Many had felt like their stories were being told. And still others were learning a great deal about living with HIV, the benefits of adhering to their antiretroviral treatment, how to tell their children their HIV status etc.

Betengna radio diaries gave hope to people living with HIV, taught and informed the general public, forged camaraderie among people who were uninfected and those living with HIV.
Sosena, who sees the impact Betengna has on people decided to look for funding and continue the program.

Although, Betengna will no longer be produced under AIDS Resource Center, the Betengna program transmitted in Addis Ababa has continued to air its programs under a different funder and umbrella.

For past Betengna radio diaries go to:

Meklit G.Michael

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