In Mozambique’s Niassa Province there sits a relatively sleepy community bordering Malawi. The town is called Mandimba and serves as a crossroads to bigger destinations: Lichinga 2-4 hours to the north, Cuamba (and eventually Nampula and Mozambique Island a full day’s drive later) to the east.
HIV/AIDS is a very real thing in the community and is spread easily through the popular local customs in which young women are paid to sleep with professional drivers accustomed to driving their loads from east to west and back again. Also, due to lack of other things to do to keep young people busy, sex is an enjoyable activity to ease the boredom.
A homegrown group of youth known as INJOSSE, headed by Mozambican-born but Malawian-educated Legion Benjamin, is doing what it can to educate the young people of the area about the dangers that come from excessive alcoholic drinking and participating in unprotected sex. They operate from the sede of Mandimba up north by 30 or so kilometers to the community of Luelele. INJOSSE offers skills training (in computers, audio and video production, etc.), teaches in schools and educates through community drama.
In 2009 a group of 4 American university students assisted a locally-based American with the filming of one such drama performed in the Luelele area. Due to technical matters the footage was lost for some years but was recently obtained and now “Kusagula Umi” (To Choose Life) can finally be enjoyed by speakers of Ciyawo wherever they may be found.
The story follows a group of young men who are fond of sleeping with prostitutes and drinking alcohol. One friend in the group gets sick and is taken to a traditional healer who tries to cure him only to fail and this friend dies. It is the first in a series of ongoing stories to be filmed. (The length runs for 1 hour).
The play’s writer and INJOSSE founder, Legion Benjamin, shares from a filmed interview about the drama:
In this play we are having people who are youth. They are destructive; they are fond of drinking beer, taking alcohol; they are womanizing. They are not protecting themselves; they are not using a condom. We are trying to sensitize the community of the negative behaviour and the results of [that] negative behavior.
Before the starting of this organization it was me who saw a young girl who was very drunk in the company of elder men and it was felt that there was need to do something (bearing in mind that when a person is drunk he cannot protect himself; he cannot hold himself from having unprotected sex).
I thought it good to come up with this organization to sensitize the community. Young people here, we are fond of taking beer. When having sex we don’t protect ourselves.
I should say there is misconception about condom use. They [are] saying that these white people are the ones trying to promote the use of condoms whereby there is a sickness behind [the condoms]. They are trying to reduce the number of the black people. More or less political to the understanding of the people. They say the whites, when they are making these condoms, there is a virus that is spreading HIV to the community, but with a purpose.
For more information about this DVD, email legionbenjamin (at) gmail (dot) com.