Under the heat of the midday sun, everyone seems to be going about their work, oblivious of what''s coming up around the corner.
By Jeff Andrew Lule
Under the heat of the midday sun, everyone seems to be going on about their work.
One young man is wearing shades . . . not to shield his eyes from the rays gleaming from the skies above, but to keep them safe from the glistening sparks exploding from the welding machine he is working with.
Another one wearing dirty overalls is banging away on a metal rod, trying to carve it up to match dozens others that lay idly by his side. As another fellow whistles his way through, rolling two heavy tyres, he almost wheels his cargo into a young woman pacing to the other side of the congested area, balancing about four covered plates piled one over the other. She is the lunch lady, I immediately notice.
The air is a mix of all sorts of sounds – clanging of metal, hissing of welding tools, whistling, choking of sick motor engines. Name it. This is Kisenyi.
This slum of a location in the downtown Kampala can best be described as rough. Many see it as the informal sector hub of the city, and rightly so. Clearly if it’s not, say, like a riot or any other attention-grabbing scenario, it is almost unimaginable to pull these youthful workers off the stuff they do. To them, it’s either you work or you get no penny.
But on this one fine hot day – with the World AIDS Day (December 1) around the corner – things were a little different.
A mobile-drive van eased into this area with local music blaring from loud speakers mounted on the vehicle. It was relatable music that many of these worker-bees of humans could relate to. A group of youthful skaters and bikers led the van as everyone started to draw in to check out what was going on. It was an unexpected appearance for these stunned Kisenyi people. Work was immediately put on hold.
As it turned out, it was a mobile campaign on safe sex, tactically aimed at availing information and life skills to young people to help them make informed decisions about their sexuality, among other things.
Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU), a youth empowering organization, decided to team up with Kyuka Youth Outreach – a community-based youth organization that uses dance and creative arts to transform and empower young people – to spread the message.
They decided to use entertainment – in what they dubbed Dancing to a Safer Sex Flash Mob Activation – to speak to the young people of Kisenyi about matters of sex and life.
This was under their campaign If it’s not on, it’s not safe, a strong message to especially young people on the significance of having protected sex.
And how better to deliver such critical messages to the youth than through music and dance! Local musicians GNL Zamba, Maurice Hassa and Ray Signature entertained the locals, and also spared time to educate the masses about making right choices and on the importance of using condoms.
Maurice Hassa does his thing on the stage
He was not alone. His counterpart GNL Zamba also took to the platform to thrill the Kisenyi crowd
RAHU staff, clad in T-shirts emblazoned with the campaign message If it is not on, it’s not safe, moved from door to door, man to man, hand to hand, giving out free condoms.
Over 21,000 condoms were supplied to the area people, courtesy of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG).
Some 20,000 condoms were given out to the people of Kisenyi
This youth made sure he did not miss out on the free condoms
There were also free HIV testing and counseling hubs stationed at Muzana zone, where some 1,500 people were tested.
These activities were organized with the World AIDS Day commemoration (this coming Monday) well in mind.
One of the sponsors of the campaign was the Uganda Police. This man of the uniform took an HIV test at the event
RAHU team leader, Humphrey Nabimanya said that with the HIV prevalence rate among the youth at four percent (4%), it remains a big risk if nothing is done.
“We think this strategy of youth interacting with the youth is more effective. That’s why we decided to come out with this strategy to empower the youth make informed choices,” he said.
According to the Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent (60%) of the youth are even unaware they are infected.
A RAHU peer educacting boda boda riders on how to use a condom
“It is one reason we are doing free HIV testing in this area. We have many youth who don’t have access to these services, while others fear. But through such campaigns, they get motivated by fellow youth and make up their minds and go for the test,” said Nabimanya.
His group had Kisenyi in their sights because they believed many youth there lack access to reliable and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information.
One of the RAHU staff mingles with an official
He said they have managed to reach over 5,000 young adults who are out of school through informative arts.
“This approach creates an enabling environment to freely access sexual and reproductive health information.”
RAHU staff move to give out condoms to Kisenyi people
This particular event was focused on increasing knowledge and awareness about the effectiveness of condom use as dual protection measure for preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs transmission.
The campaign was sponsored by MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Rutgers WPF, IT TakesTwo, KCCA, Uganda Police Force, Miss Uganda Foundation, UNFPA and UHMG.
Kisenyi dances to safer sex, 20,000 condoms given out