Farewell to a unique personality

Melania Mrema Kyando in a 2017 interview. photo by Nicholas Calvin Mwakatobe.

Melania Mrema was one of the defining figures of the Moravian Church in Tanzania. As a long-time leader of the women's ministry, she motivated and empowered thousands of women to discover their own strengths and become active for a more just society.

After the death of her husband, she learned of his HIV infection. Later she realized that she was also infected. At that time, the stigma was still great, even in the church, and so she endured the disease in secret. It was not until she met a woman who was equally affected, but who spoke openly about her HIV infection, that Melania began to rethink. In a church service in 2007, she made her status public and since then has hardly missed an opportunity to talk about HIV and AIDS.

Enlightener and encourager

In this way, the pastor became an important educator who contributed significantly to taking away the stigma from those with the disease. With a great deal of charisma, but also unsparing openness and humor, she encouraged people to get tested and take medication. In recent years, numerous self-help groups have been formed under her leadership, including a large group with children infected with HIV.

Melania Mrema worked a lot and without regard for her own health. A few years ago she wrote:

"I myself still take every opportunity to educate about HIV/AIDS and talk about what it means to live with this virus. I call on others to stand up against stigma and help them interact in a loving, Christian way. It's hard work, but God has given me the strength not only to take care of myself, but also to help others."

A unique personality

Melania's death leaves an unimaginable gap. The Moravian Church in Tanzania loses an important voice for particularly vulnerable people and also for the church. Mission 21 loses an extremely impressive, committed and reliable partner and close friend. We are grateful for her work and numerous encounters with her in Tanzania, Germany and Switzerland.

Melania Mrema Kyando's work has been documented in books and films in recent years. The film "Like You and Me" by Nicholas Calvin Mwakatobe is particularly impressive. This documentary could be shown on World Aids Day 2015 in Basel in the presence of Melania. In this production, not only Melania has her say, but also many people from self-help groups with whom she has worked. It becomes impressively tangible how important her work was. Together with the Moravian Church in Tanzania, Mission 21 mourns the loss of a unique personality.

Johannes Klemm, Team Leader Africa, Mission 21

► Insights into Melania Mrema Kyando's life (PDF, German)

► Video: "Like You and Me" by Nicholas Calvin

► Video: "Crocodile in my blood" (about Melania Mrema's work with children and young people affected by HIV).

► The HIV work of Mission 21 and the Moravian Church in Tanzania

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Mission 21
Protestant Mission Basel

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