Open hearts, open minds.
Subject: Young men (Education)
AIDS education (Demographic aspects)
Family violence (Demographic aspects)
Author: Baumgarten, Robin
Pub Date: 06/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: June, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Product: Product Code: 9101226 Domestic Violence (Families) NAICS Code: 92219 Other Justice, Public Order, and Safety Activities
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 184550007
Full Text: Namibia's young men are thinking and talking about some hot topics. A weekend 'boys only' workshop held in late March saw twenty grade eleven and twelve learners delving into issues like widow inheritance, sexuality, tradition and culture, violence, and HIV and Aids. The workshop, Video Facilitation - Opening hearts and minds, was organised by IBIS/Positive Vibes and the Goethe Centre/Nads with the goal of training young men to facilitate video presentations and group discussions around difficult, yet pertinent issues. The workshop was facilitated by Harold Swartz of Nawa Life Trust and Kennedy Lifalaza, a trainer with IBIS/Positive Vibes.

Boys only

According to Harold, the idea of working with boys arose because most of the workshops on HIV in Namibia have not been designed for men, and the messages targeted at men have been largely ineffective. Goethe Centre director Christiane Schulte agrees. "Issues like abuse, violence and HIV/Aids are highly relevant in Namibian society today. Women and girls are the ones commonly addressed when dealing with these topics. Men and boys are usually identified as part of the problem, but they are rarely approached to play an active role in the solution of such concerns. We feel confirmed in our approach as the issue of male awareness is also in the public arena, for example through the First National HIV/Aids Male Conference in February this year in Windhoek, which received strong input from President Pohamba," she added.

The two organisations held their first workshop for boys on abuse, violence, HIV and Aids in September 2007. Twenty boys worked together to learn about the effects of these issues on individuals and society, and to develop strategies for dealing with them. Twelve of the participants from the first workshop returned to be part of the second one, which again had twenty participants in total, selected from high schools throughout Windhoek and Rehoboth.

Growing facilitators

Opening hearts and minds equipped participants with skills to screen videos at their schools and to enable group discussions on sensitive topics. It also provided them with tools for communicating and handling challenging situations within presentations. The boys then had the opportunity to practise these skills and facilitate discussions of videos from the Steps for the Future series, a collection of 34 films made in Southern African countries featuring people from all walks of life living with and dealing with HIV and Aids.

With both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement from facilitators and the group, the young facilitators were able to learn from their successes and mistakes. One participant commented, "Now I know how to ask questions, pass on a message and how to give the right answer." Another reported, "I've learned to listen more attentively and to communicate more effectively."

Information gap

According to Christiane, "The biggest challenge we anticipated was the different backgrounds of the boys; we knew their knowledge wouldn't be at the same level." Harold pointed out that the young men need more specific information on HIV and Aids. For example, after viewing a film in which a gay man discloses his HIV positive status, one young man commented, "How on earth could he have gotten HIV?" The young presenter responded, "He could have gotten it from a razor blade or maybe he had unprotected sex with a woman when he was younger." This exchange points to the general knowledge gap in Namibia regarding HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, one of the highest risk groups. Harold recommends that further information on the virus, including transmission and prevention, be part of future workshops.

Hope for the future

Both the facilitators and the director of the programme were impressed with this group of young men. "The highlight was the boys' commitment, dedication and concentration throughout the whole workshop! No one stepped out, they worked from morning to evening without complaining and really put a lot energy into it," said Christiane. "We will definitely continue with this kind of work - especially with this group of young men! We want to give them an option of further support and mentoring." Each young man left the workshop with an implementation plan for his school, and facilitators Harold and Kennedy will continue to support the boys, visiting them and providing them with feedback and guidance as they give their video presentations.

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The young men also considered the workshop a success. "Facilitating lets you know you help people make up their mind in a positive way," said one. "I like being able to encourage people and to contribute to the decrease of HIV and Aids as well as other sicknesses," said another. "Facilitating is quite interesting and in one year I can become a role model in my community and school."

"Young men like these are really giving hope," said Christiane. "They are Namibia's future."
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