12 February 2013
As a community leader, devout Muslim and successful businessman, Hadji Abdela Hassen (left) is well respected in his hometown of Hosana, Ethiopia. But it is his role as matchmaker that he relishes most.
Love blossoms in Ethiopia
Hadji Abdela met Leila and Nasir through a project he ran for people living with HIV which was set up by Christian Aid partner, Ethiopian Muslims' Relief and Development Association (EMRDF).
Recognising that people living with HIV from within Hosana's Muslim community faced high levels of stigma, Hadji Abdela has been challenging discrimination and providing support for those with the virus.
Through running support groups, Hadji Abdela discovered that many of the people he met had lost their jobs after disclosing their status. He decided to provide practical training to help them set up businesses to provide for themselves and their families.
Nasir and Leila were among those who received training.
Nasir says: 'I was doing domestic work in a house but I was fired when I became sick. The owner refused to give me my salary because of my HIV status. I thought, “If I am going to die, who will bury me?”'
A perfect match
Many of the group's members have gone on to set up profitable businesses. But in Leila and Nasir's case, Hadji Abdela was not content to just concern himself with business matters.
'They loved each other and they finally got married.'
With a fatherly glint in his eye, he says: 'I saw that Nasir had a wish to be married and have children. I saw that he would be a good man. So I introduced him to Leila.'
The rest is history.
Nasir says: 'My hope started after Hadji introduced us. After Hadji introduced me to Leila I was very happy. I felt I had met someone who can accompany me in life.'
Hadji Abdela is clearly proud of his role in the romance.
Hopes for the future
Today the pair are happily married, and their business - running a small tea shop alongside a popular market stall - goes from strength to strength.
'We complement each other.'
Nasir says: 'The only way to make marriage easy is to work very hard – both in your business and working together to have a good marriage. It is better working together because we divide tasks.'
One year into marriage, Nasir and Leila are looking forward to the future.
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