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Kicked out, Kaalina Fights for her Home

Kaalina is fighting for justice.

With a baby at her hip and shopping bags of powdered milk in her hand, Kaalina moves quickly to the house of corrugated steel.

This home, a two-bedroom building with a dirt floor, is a temporary location."I'm just house sitting for a friend," says the mother of five.

From a mattress on the floor, Kaalina's story begins.

In 1991, Kaalina, a young bride, stood up in white and said 'I do' in front of her village in northern Namibia.

Also in '91, Kaalina and her husband saved enough money to buy a home in Windhoek and their family grew. Kaalina's brother-in-law moved in during 1992 while he pursued post-secondary education. Soon Baby Selma, then Nabot, Helena Sunday, Moses and the baby were born. With eight people under one roof, Kaalina undertook a multitude of chores with children to care for, a family to feed and endless cleaning to undertake. With a work-from-home job of selling cosmetics in and around Windhoek, Kaalina helped support the family's income, although she admits "it was meager."

In 2004, Kaalina's life unexpectedly changed. A year earlier Kaalina's husband lost his job and the brother-in-law, who was now working as a taxi driver, began paying for some of the family's bills. It was during that time that Kaalina learned she was HIV-positive, along with one of her children.

Kaalina says when her brother-in-law found out, he began to become hostile towards her.

"He would, for instance, not want to eat food that I prepared or want to be in the same room as me," she recalls.

Becoming involved in the non-profit support group AIDS Care Trust, Kaalina learned more about discrimination. Opening a worn folder, Kaalina shows off some her most treasured possessions - training certificates that helped her become a volunteer counselor for other people living with HIV and AIDS.

Yet at home, Kaalina's reality became worse.

"On Friday, November 9, 2006, three men and a woman who I didn't know came to the house and demanded that my daughter and I vacate the house immediately. I was not presented with any documents or any identification. They were very aggressive and started moving my furniture, clothing and other goods out of the house and onto the pavement in the street, despite me protesting that the house belonged to my husband and me. My husband was not at home as he left for the north the Monday preceding our eviction."

Soon it came to light that Kaalina's house had been sold, unbeknownst to her, to her brother-in-law. Her husband had signed the deed of transfer, saying he was single, and sold the home for an amount that Kaalina says is far below the market value of the house.

"I would not have consented to the sale for many reasons, mainly due to the fact that we are HIV-positive and we need adequate and safe shelter and our minor children need a place to live."

Taking shelter at a school's hostel, Kaalina and her HIV-positive child soon moved in with an acquaintance on the outskirts of Katutura and ultimately with an aunt, where the rest of her children came to join her.

"She is also unemployed and we are really struggling to make ends meet. The house is also not adequate as it is full. We are sleeping on the floor," Kaalina relates.

Eventually, Kaalina asked her 70-year-old mother in the north to care for her children.

Despite her misfortune, Kaalina says she wasn't surprised having heard the confessions from counseling sessions. "I think I was fortunate that I was just kicked out," she said. "Some people get dumped or killed."

With a new-found courage gained from four years of volunteering, Kaalina decided to go and defend herself. At a time when HIV and AIDS continues to be whispered about in Namibian corners, where identifying yourself as HIV positive is still a social taboo, Kaalina is breaking ground.

Turning to the LAC, AIDS Law Unit project lawyer Linda Dumba-Chicalu explains that Kaalina is setting an example for people living with HIV and AIDS,

Dumba-Chicalu explains Kaalina case is also challenging a discriminatory law that dates back to the apartheid regime.

"According to the Native Administration Proclamation 15 of 1928, which only applies north of the Police Zone in Kavango, former Ovamboland and Caprivi region, marriages between blacks are automatically out of community of property. For a marriage to be in community of property, a declaration must be made by the intending spouses one month prior to the marriage before a magistrate or marriage officer. This law only applies to blacks and there discriminates on the basis of race, in violation of article 10 of the Namibian Constitution."

Meanwhile Kaalina waits for her day in court, expected in June 2008.

"My only hope is that I must return to the house," she says.

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Last update: March 2008