Mozambique, 24 June 2013: A healthy generation grows in Mozambique
By Dezi Mahotas
A youth group in Mozambique is helping build a better future through community outreach and support.
BEIRA, Mozambique, 24 June 2013 – “We are the ‘Healthy Generation,’ or ‘Geração Saudável,’” says 18-year-old Edson, a student. “Youth and health should go together, and that is what we try to promote among young people.”
Edson joined the youth group Geração Saudável in 2010. It’s an offshot of Kuplumussana, an association of concerned mothers who advocate on issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. Over time, as more young people joined their mothers in helping raise awareness, Geração Saudável was formed specifically for them. The Italian NGO Doctors with Africa CUAMM funded the group, with support from UNICEF. Today, it has grown to 35 members between 12 and 21 years old.
“Remaining healthy guarantees my future as well as that of my country,” says Edson.
He points out that although people his age in Mozambique today face many health concerns, including sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and unwanted pregnancy, none is greater than HIV and AIDS.
Six health facilities in Beira City host peer groups for adolescents, including those living with HIV. These groups have so far engaged more than 4,700 young people through community and school outreach interventions, and they have provided counselling and testing to 338 young people.
“Our job is to try to mobilize and sensitize as many adolescents as possible, to make them aware and help prevent problems before they happen,” Edson says. “In a way, we act as role models in the community.”
His interest in youth activism began by chance, through a friend in his neighbourhood who worked for one of the CUAMM staff members. Edson was happy to meet other socially conscious young people like himself. “Ever since,” he said, “I have regularly attended Kuplumussana’s meetings.”
The Kuplumussana mothers generally get together every Saturday to discuss issues related to HIV prevention and to plan their activities. Later, they go out into the community and visit schools to share their knowledge with others.
“We like spending time with each other in an environment free of drugs,” says Edson. A typical day for the group revolves around discussing good health practices and sharing that information with other young people.
Using Art to Educate
“Young people’s fear of stigma and discrimination discourages them from getting tested for HIV,” Edson says. “They are afraid of a positive result, but they are also afraid of being rejected by society.”
The group uses theatre and music to deliver serious messages to young people. It also employs other creative outreach techniques, such as using cartoons to emphasise the importance of HIV testing, selling posters and postcards to raise funds, and designing T-shirts to identify members during community work.
The link to Kuplumussana remains strong. The older activists offer training on subjects such as theatrical performance. They have also written plays dealing with subjects such as prevention of early pregnancy, stigma and discrimination, as well as domestic and sexual violence.
"I enjoy caring for my health," said Edson, explaining his motivation for working as a peer educator.
He plans to continue studying and wants to go to university.
“And for that,” he says, “you have to be healthy and strong.”
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