Stories

Born in 1949 in Rangoon, Burma, Dr. San San Min had a childhood of privilege and entitlement. As the daughter of Rangoon's mayor, San San grew up with servants and tutors. However, her parents understood and accepted the civic duties that came with that lifestyle. Her father's open-door policy of actively listening to the needs of the community and her mother's insistence that San San and her siblings assume many household chores gave San San Min a platform to make the professional choices she has made.

When the Taliban began to seize power in Afghanistan in 1996, one of the first of their many brutal acts was to confine women to their homes, denying them an education, the right to work and even medical attention. At that time, Dr. Sohaila Seddiq was serving as the Director of the Academy of Medical Sciences the Military Hospital in Kabul, a city still not under Taliban control. As a trained surgeon, Dr. Seddiq had performed hundreds of operations on civilians and soldiers alike and saved countless lives.

Warned that she was ill, we expected to find 50-year-old Salome Kombe in bed and ready to die. Though she is among an older demographic of HIV-infected Tanzanians, Salome is by no means retiring. Surprisingly, she walked to greet us, looking happy and strong. HIV-positive and living in a one-room shack, Salome is unemployed and struggles to care for three grandchildren; ensuring they have enough food is a daily effort. Her neighbors and family offer some support, but are equally poor.

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