inspiring others on international women’s day
International Women’s Day emerged in the early twentieth century as a result of labor movements that spread throughout North America and Europe. What started over one hundred years ago has developed into a worldwide celebration where women of all ethnicities, race, religions and political parties come together to reflect on the courageous and extraordinary acts of everyday women in their countries and communities.
In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, we sat down with Catarina Nkengue of Angola, an incredible woman who one day found herself the widow of a retired Cabinda Gulf Oil Company (CABGOC*) employee who died of HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and their children. Nkengue tells her personal story of fighting the disease with the help of Chevron, which for 30 years has encouraged treatment, helped fight the stigma associated with many HIV-positive women, and provided medical care for employees and their dependents.
Read Catarina’s interview with Gomes Cambuta, Policy, Government and Public Affairs manager in Cabinda, Angola, on how Catarina persevered through tragedy and became a leader to women in her community:
Cambuta: How did you find out you were HIV positive? Were you offered treatment or counseling?
Nkengue: After [my husband’s] death I was called by [the] CABGOC clinic in Cabinda and told that my husband died of HIV/AIDS. I was advised to undertake an HIV test and I tested positive. Since then, I received treatment. However, prior to getting information of my [HIV] status, I was already involved in HIV campaigns.
Cambuta: After you received the news that you were HIV-positive, did people treat you differently?
Nkengue: I suffered, I suffered a lot, I was seriously stigmatized. I was discriminated against. While I had many friends, with time I started to see friends move away from me. There were times that I called or met someone in the street and they would pretend they did not know me. It was a very difficult phase for me.
Right: Powdered milk is delivered to an HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counseling center in Cabinda province, Angola, which allows mothers to feed their newborn babies without passing HIV on to their children.
Cambuta: Were you pregnant when you found out you were HIV-positive?
Nkengue: Yes. Although at that time HIV treatment was not yet for all, I was among the few to receive treatment, which helped me carry the pregnancy until birth. The [CABGOC] doctors assured my family that with the right assistance I would have a long life.
Before beginning to receive assistance and counseling from Chevron, I already knew that I could give birth to an [HIV-free] child because I was already an activist for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I believe that in the province (Cabinda) or even in the country, I was the first woman to benefit from HIV treatment aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission. I went through this in 2000, at a time that the prevention of mother-to-child transmission was not yet spoken about widely in Angola.
Cambuta: How did Chevron’s internal program train you on counseling/activism regarding HIV/AIDS?
Nkengue: Since I first learned about my [HIV status] the doctors gave me a lot of counselling on how I have to live. During several conversations that we had, [I] realized that I could take advantage of the counseling and help others.
Chevron gave me training as an activist and then [helped me] manage the first counseling center in Cabinda. That marked a turning point in my life, because becoming a counselor after having stopped being a teacher boosted my self-esteem and I became firm in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Cambuta: How is Chevron making a difference in Cabinda?
Nkengue: Chevron has made a big difference in supporting people with HIV/AIDS, through counseling, supporting babies of HIV-positive mothers, and by having babies who are entitled to powder milk to prevent mother-to-child transmission and help us to reduce the number of HIV-positive children.
Today, despite the continuous battle of living with HIV, Catarina remains a strong female leader and inspiring spokesperson for women in Cabinda. There is still more work to be done in order to cure HIV/AIDS, but women like Catarina are paving the way to an AIDS-free world. Chevron is proud to celebrate Catarina and women’s achievements on International Women’s Day, and the other 364 days of the year.
*CABGOC is a subsidiary of Chevron in Angola
Since 2001 in Nigeria and 2005 in Angola, Chevron has received no reports of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among its employees or qualified dependents participating in related health programs.
Published: March 2017