Expanding Our Knowledge

As part of our 15th Anniversary, we are learning more about the 15 countries in Africa supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

We will feature one country each week, for 15 weeks.  The 15 countries extending from the horn to the south of Africa include: Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

The presentations will be short and include the following information: population of the country, the main economic features, main religions, main health concerns including HIV/AIDS, common cultural practices, and the Community Based Organizations in that country which are supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.


Ethiopia, located in the horn of Africa,  is an ancient complex country. It maintained its sovereignty despite expansive colonization elsewhere with a monarchy (sadly overthrown in 1974) linked to the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  With a population of about 109 million it has about 80 ethnic-linguistic groupings and is home to all three of the Abrahamic religions – the majority being Coptic Christians. It faced violent oppression (Red Terror) during the communist military occupation (1974-1991) and continues to experience inter-regional ethnic conflict. It remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with agriculture, specifically coffee, the main economic driver. Because of military conflicts/wars and changing climate, it’s population continues to struggle with drought and famine.      

It was ravaged by the AIDS pandemic in the late 20th and early 21st century. The statistics have improved significantly since then with a 46% drop overall in new infections and a 52% drop in AIDS related deaths mainly due to the availability of Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART). Women/ girls, however, are still being infected at a much higher rate than men/boys.

The SLF works with three community based organizations (CBOs) in Ethiopia. All three are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and work in various regions throughout the country. All have their main headquarters in Addis Ababa, the capital city. 

1. Kulich Youth Reproductive Health & Development Organization – has a mission to address RH,HIV/AIDS and gender related issues. 

2. Developing Families Together –  has a mission to improve the quality of the lives of families with a special focus on women and children through a family based and integrated community development approach. Their specific focus is intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

3. Negem Lela Ken New HIV Positive Women Support Organization –  has a mission to intervene in endeavors to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through the economic empowerment of low income women living with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable women’s groups. 

(source: Wikipedia, UNAIDS, 2019)


Uganda is a country of 43 million people. It earned its independence from the UK in 1962 and pretty much had dictators as leaders since then, beginning with Idi Amin. The current President is Yaveri Moseveni who has been able to retain power since 1986. The main languages are English and Swahili. 

The major exports are coffee, oil and base metals. There has been significant economic growth but the advantages have not impacted the poverty rate, which is 38% of the population. They do have free education for the primary and secondary students and they provide health care for their citizens.

84% of the population is rural and gender inequity continues to be an issue. The government has strong regulations against the LGBTQ+ community and individuals continue to be harshly dealt with. The population of Uganda continues to grow rapidly as on average women have 5.9 children each. Currently there are 1.5 million people with HIV 85% of adults receiving meds; 65% of children. They are on target for the 90-90-90 target, currently at 89-94-90.

SLF Groups – There are 6 organizations supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Please check out their website (stephenlewisfoundation.org) to see the work they do. They are all impressive:

1. Actions for Rural Women’s Empowerment – empower women to initiate and manage their social-economic development.

2. Grandmothers Consortium – Formed after the Uganda Gathering of 500 women. They are a voice of advocacy.

3. Women’s International Peace Centre – Amplifying women’s voices and power through research and knowledge; feminist leadership institute; communication and knowledge management.

4. Freedom and Roam Uganda

5. Icebreakers Uganda

6. Sexual Minorities Uganda

Republic of Kenya:

Kenya is in East Africa, bordered by Somalia and the Indian ocean on the east, South Sudan and Ethiopia  in the north, Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south. It is bisected by the equator. Its population is about 48,500,000, making it number 28 in world population ranking. The area is about 592,000 sq. kms. The capital is Nairobi.  Another important city is Mombasa, an historic centre located along the Indian ocean coast. The main languages are Swahili and English.

European contact began in 1500 with the Portuguese, but effective colonization began in the 1800s with the British.  Modern day Kenya emerged from  a protectorate established by the British Empire in 1895.  Many disputes between the UK and the colony led to the Mau Mau revolution beginning in 1952  and eventually the declaration of independence in 1963.  Kenya  remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The current constitution was adopted in 2010.  The current president, first elected in 2013,  is Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya is the third largest economy in Sub Saharan Africa.  Agriculture is the largest sector; tea and coffee and other cash crops, and fresh flowers are a fast growing export.  Tourism is a major industry, partly because of its vast wildlife preserves.  

Kenya has made great strides in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, and the number of new infections has fallen sharply in recent years.  Annual new infections are now less than a third of what they were at the peak of the epidemic in 1993. However, more than 1.5 million people do have HIV, and as of February 2020, the HIV prevalence was 4.9%.  There is a growing disparity of cases between men and women, 6.6% in women as opposed to 3.1% in men,  with an even greater disparity among young people between 20-34.  Although awareness of HIV/AIDS is high, there is still a high level of stigma associated with it, which sometimes deters people from accessing services.

Please do consult Wikipedia and other sources for more information on this culturally rich and diverse country.  It is impossible to paint a true picture in a few short paragraphs. 

SLF participates in several programs operating in Kenya. Each of these organizations has its own website,easy to access with a wealth of interesting information.

  • Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives – works in gender equality, HIV/AIDs, public health, social justice education.
  • Ishtar MSM – offers health and social services to gay and bisexual  men. 
  • Living Positive Kenya – their mission is to support women, orphans and their families to live healthy  and economically stable lives.  Founded by Mary Wanderi, a social worker and advocate of neglected children who are often suffering from AIDS.
  • LVCT Health – a Kenyan NGO, works to increase access to HIV prevention, testing services, care and treatment.  Offers tech support for strengthening health systems.
  • Minority Womyn in Action – founded in 2006 to address issues of LBQ women in East Africa. There is a branch specific to Kenya.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):

The DRC, historically called Zaire, is located in Central Africa.  It is, by area, the second-largest African country and has a population of around 105 million made up of over 200 ethnic groups.  The official language is French  with four major regional languages, Kilongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala, also being spoken. Christianity and Islam are its major religions. Kinshasa is the capital city. 

The DRC has the world’s second largest contiguous rain forest (second to the Amazon) and has other ecosystems including savannas, swamps, and flood plains. According to the World Wildlife Fund these unique habitats and species make the DRC one of the most valuable yet vulnerable areas in the world for biodiversity, wildlife protection and rainforest sustainability. 

It is geographically dominated by the Congo River basin including its myriad tributaries and occupies nearly the entire country.  It forms the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation.  The DRC is extremely rich in natural resources particularly in minerals essential for the electrification of transportation and the production of other essential renewable products.  Politically, however, it is very unstable. It suffers from corruption, a lack of infrastructure, and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little developmental assistance provided in the country.  Sadly, it ranks 175 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index scale.

Its colonization began in the 1870s and became known as the Belgian Congo until it achieved independence in 1960, becoming the Republic of the Congo. Since that time and continuing to the present,  the country has lurched from one crisis to another being caught in Cold War allegiances, military coups, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and other territorial/border conflicts.  This continuing and increasing violence is a major moral and humanitarian challenge. Mass rapes, sexual violence and sexual slavery are used as weapons of war; additionally child soldiers, child labour, and forced labour are being used extensively. The DRC  people are among the poorest people on the planet, having the lowest, or nearly lowest, GDP per capita in the world.

Because of these many challenges, the health of the people has suffered as indicated by  high maternal mortality rates, endemic malaria, and the presence of Yellow Fever and other highly infectious diseases such as Ebola. With sexual violence so pervasive, HIV infection and the resulting AIDS-related deaths were exceedingly high. UNAIDS(2020) reports that AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 61% since 2010. At present, of the people living with HIV, more than 64% are women. There are 68,000 children under the age of 14 years living with HIV with only 25% on treatment. UNAIDS (2020) also states “Despite considerable progress, only 57% of people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy(ART)… coverage of ART is higher among men (72%) than among women (51%), a real sign of gender inequality.” More needs to be done to support women; if they do not feel safe to disclose their HIV status they will not enrol in HIV treatment.

The Community based organizations supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in the DRC are: 

1. HEAL Africa – is both a hospital and a peace building organization in North Kivu, DRC. It helps victims of rape and gender-based violence, including both medical, surgical, and psychosocial care;  provides conflict victims with basic economic survival support;  provides legal assistance to help end impunity for crimes; provides micro-credit and training in income-generating activities for communities. 

2. General Referral Hospital of Panzi -is a referral and treatment center for the healthcare sector in the city of Bukayu, providing support to female victims of sexual violence and their children. It has become internationally renowned for its transformative work on reconstructive surgery for women damaged by sexual violence and rape. Dr Dennis Mukwege , the founder and director if Panzi Hospital, received the 2018 Nobel Peace prize for this work for his work in this area.

3. Foundation Panzi – The SLF is one of over 40 international funding organizations  funding the work of the Panzi Hospital. 

4. Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko –  promotes the defense of the rights of LGBTQI+ people in all territories of the DRC and inform sensitized sexual minorities on topics related to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, human rights and sexual violence. 

5. V-Day – City of Joy – V-Day supports and launched the City of Joy, a revolutionary center for women survivors of gender violence in the DRC, which has graduated over 1472 women leaders. V-Day believes that when art and activism come together they have the power to transform systems and change culture. 


Rwanda is the 4th smallest mainland African country and at 12.6 million people, it is most densely populated.  It is a young and mostly rural country of “ten thousand hills.” Because of its high altitude, the climate is subtropical with temperatures year round between 15 and 28 C with two wet and two dry seasons yearly. The country has 3 main groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa (pygmy forest dwellers).  The main language is Kinyarwanda with English and French also official languages.  Religion is predominantly Christian, education is free to Grade 12 but parents “should contribute materials, support teacher development and contribute to school construction”.  Literacy rate in 2009 was 71%.  Same sex activity is legal but the subject is taboo.  Same sex marriage and civil unions are not recognized.  Coffee and tea are the main exports with tourism growing and becoming an important part of the economy.

Germany and then Belgium were colonizers beginning in 1884 and promoted pro-Tutsi policies. Gaining independence in 1962, the Hutus revolted with a bloody massacre and became the dominant ruling group. In 1990 the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launched a civil war. It is not clear historically why there was such strong rivalry between the two groups, but it led to the deadly Rwandan genocide of 1994 with the Hutu massacre of the Tutsis. The RPF victory after these horrific events resulted in the present new political system. The system of government since 1994 is Presidential with 2 legislative bodies. It is one of 3 countries in the world where the majority of Parliamentarians are female.  Paul Kagame has been president since 2000 with the ability to remain as President until 2034. 


As of a 2019 news release from the CDC Rwanda is well on its way to meeting the 90-90-90 UN goal.  83.8% of adults living with HIV are aware of their status, 97.5% of adults are aware of their status and receiving ARV treatment with 91% of adults receiving ARV treatment have viral suppression. There are approximately 5,400 new cases of infection each year.

Stephen Lewis Foundation Project/Partnership: 

 Rwanda Women Community Development Network – is a national non government organization focusing on empowering women for self-transformation and gender equality.  Its mission is to work towards improvement of the socio-economic welfare of women in Rwanda through enhancing their efforts to meet their basic needs. This mission is delivered through 5 key focus programs: Health care and support, Education and knowledge sharing, Socio-economic empowerment, Gender-based violence prevention and response, and Governance and leadership.

Information from Wikipedia, Stephen Lewis Foundation and Rwanda Women Community Development Network, CDC news release.

United Republic of Tanzania:

Located In East Africa, Tanzania is the 13th largest country in Africa. It is located in the African Great  Lakes Region and it borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; the Indian Ocean to the east;  Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi and the  Democratic Republic of the Congo to the West. It is a very bio diverse country known for the Plains of  Serengeti National Park (home to the “big five” – lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros) and  Kilimanjaro National Park, which houses Africa’s tallest mountain.  

At one time Zanzibar was the centre of the east Africa slave trade, but slavery was abolished in the  1890’s. German rule began in mainland Tanzania during the late 19th century. After World War 1, control  transferred to British rule and it was know as Tanganyika. Zanzibar was a separate colonial jurisdiction at  that time. In 1961 and 1963 respectively, they gained independence and in 1964 they merged to become  the United Republic of Tanzania. To this day, Tanzania is still a member of the British Commonwealth.  Tanzania is a presidential constitutional republic. But like so many African countries, corruption is a  problem.  

There are over 100 different languages spoken in Tanzania, but the two main languages are English and  Swahili. 63% of the population are Christians, 34% Muslims.  

Agriculture is a large part of the Tanzanian economy, along with mining, tourism, telecommunications  and banking. Poor nutrition remains a persistent problem in the country. Education is compulsory to the  age of 15. Women and men have equality before the law. The practice of female genital mutilation has  decreased in recent years. Most of the abuses and violence against women and children occur at the  family level.  

HIV/AIDS in Tanzania (2019 – USAIDS Data, 2020)  

• 1.7 million people living with HIV  

• 75% of adults living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment  

• 66% of children living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment  

Gender inequality, HIV-related stigma and the criminalization of certain groups such as men who have  sex with men, continue to act as major barriers to HIV prevention in Tanzania.  

SLF Community Grassroots Partners In Tanzania:  

• Centre for Public Law and Social Economic Rights Advocacy  

• Kimara Peer Educators and Health Promoters Trust Fund  

• Umoja wa Mapambano Dhidi Ya Ukimwi  

• Zanzibar Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS  

• Maasai Women Development Organization  

• Tanzania League of the Blind – Uyui Branch  

Information from Wikipedia, SLF website, UNAIDS


The British established the ‘Nyasaland Districts Protectorate’ in 1891. The country achieved independence in 1964 and Nyasaland was renamed Malawi. Landlocked Malawi has a population of just over 20 million and ranks among the world’s poorest countries. Malawi is a very friendly country that coined the phrase “The Warm Heart of Africa” to promote tourism. It has a fabulous lake, great beaches and has several national parks featuring most of the major African big game species.

 The economy of Malawi is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for about one-third of GDP and 80% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports, although Malawi is looking to diversify away from tobacco to other cash crops. Heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture, with maize being the staple crop, Malawi’s economy was hit hard by the El Nino-driven drought in 2015 and 2016, and now faces threat from the Fall Armyworm.
The drought also slowed economic activity, led to two consecutive years of declining economic growth, and contributed to high inflation rates. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations.

Rapid population growth and high population density is putting pressure on Malawi’s land, water, and forest resources. Reduced plot sizes and increasing vulnerability to climate change, further threaten the sustainability of Malawi’s agriculturally based economy and will worsen food shortages. 
Malawi has made great improvements in maternal and child health. In both rural and urban areas, very high proportions of mothers are receiving prenatal care and skilled birth assistance, and most children are being vaccinated. Malawi’s fertility rate, however, has only declined slowly, decreasing from more than 7 children per woman in the 1980s to about 5.5 today. Women are increasingly using contraceptives to prevent or space pregnancies. It was estimated in 2019 that there were 1.1 million people living with HIV. In Malawi there is a risk of infectious diseases, including: food and waterborne diseases such as schistosomiasis; vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever; animal contact diseases such as rabies; bacterial (typhoid fever) and viral (hepatitis A) diseases. 

Despite the challenges faced by Malawi, the country has seen several successful transitions of government through electoral processes and is a safe and welcoming destination for tourism. 

Malawi Organizations supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation:

  1. Centre for Alternatives for Victimised Women and Children
  2. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation
  3. Ekwendeni Hospital HIV/AIDS Programme
  4. Friends of AIDS Support Trust
  5. National Association for People Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi
  6. Nancholi Youth Organization
  7. Rights Institute for Social Empowerment

Prepared by Judy Mill



tom.mill@shaw.ca Tom was the biologist in Nyika National Park, northern Malawi from 1975-1976


Zimbabwe is a landlocked country bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique. It is an old country with evidence of early settlement 100,000 years ago.  The country has had a tumultuous history with various states and kingdoms emerging and receding. Cecil Rhodes outlined the present territory in the 1890s and it became a self-governing British colony, called Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965 the white minority declared its independence, renaming it Rhodesia. This was followed by war and isolation until 1980 when a peace agreement was signed, and independence granted.  Robert Mugabe became president, until he resigned in 2017. Under his rule uprisings continued to happen, especially with white landowners. Sanctions by many nations because of government policies led to further isolation and unrest. Once known as the Jewel of Africa for its prosperity it has been in economic decline since the 1990s because of alleged corruption, mismanagement, and hyperinflation. The decline now has become a crisis. 

Currently the country has a population of 14 million+, with about 90% under the age of 54 (life expectancy is 62.8 years). There are 3 official languages and 13 minor official ones.  Most of the population are Christians. There is a continuing shift in movement of the population from rural to urban living. Many have moved from the rural areas because of deforestation and poaching leading to loss of wild animals.  As well, the government’s poorly managed land reform program led to major damage to the agricultural sector.  This increased urbanization has led to major growth in the cities, especially in Harare, the capital of the country.  

There have been significant strides in expanding access to HIV testing and treatment, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and lowering HIV prevalence (UNICEF). However, despite this it still is one of the major public health concerns, especially in the 15-49 age group. Adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected.  In 2019, 1.4 million adults were living with HIV with 40,000 new HIV infections and 20,000 AIDS related deaths (AVERT).  The main transmission is from unprotected sex. The illegal nature of sex work and male to male sex has led to barriers in access to HIV services.  It is estimated that 40% of sex trade workers are living with HIV. 

The SLF works with 6 community-based organizations: 1. Chiedza Child Care Centre – provides practical help, through hot meals, life skills development, and after school programmes for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. 2) Family Orphan Support Trust of Zimbabwe – solicits and facilitates support for orphans and vulnerable children in farm communities in Zimbabwe. 3) Hope Tariro Trust is a child focused organisation working in areas of HIV and AIDS, Nutrition, and Diabetes. 4) Midlands AIDS Service Organisation main mandate is to fight HIV and AIDS through an integrated approach which allows it to implement multi-faceted programmes. 5) Mavambo Trust provides orphan and vulnerable children with education catch-up programmes, psycho-social support, nutrition support and community capacity development programmes. 6) Musasa Project focuses on issues of violence against women and girls.  (Information from websites of the organizations)