The Power Of Grassroots Engagement

International Development is a Service Learning project that provides the students with an opportunity to learn through meaningful service.

The goal of the project is to learn from NGOs and assist them to improve their facilities by providing them feedback on how they operate. The goal of the project is to attempt to learn and understand the daily challenges that people of Mozambique face, and how the various organizations work to help improve their daily living. With the members of DFID (Department for International Development) and members of several NGOs, we got hands on experience and an insight of the various projects run by N’weti on the day 2 of our service learning.

Exploring Health Centres

Our first step was to visit the Xipamanine Health Centre. While there, we focused on a SAAJ, as it is a project sponsored by our host, N’weti. SAAJ is a specific section of the health centre that works directly with teenagers aged 10 to 24, where they can go and discuss various issues related to sexual and reproductive health.

When we arrived the nurse was attending a patient, Alice, and we got the opportunity to witness first-hand how the SAAJ works. The patient also shared some of her experiences and thoughts on how these centres operate, and through this we got a glimpse of how effective the program is. The patient heard about the SAAJ through her sister, and has been seeking help for herself and her partner ever since. Through all this, she has always been pleased with the kindness and patience of the nurse, and how she can clarify all her doubts through the meetings. Once the patient left, we talked to the nurse who informed us about how the SAAJ helps people throughout the country, and how N’weti has helped to establish several SAAJ centres at easily accessible locations (like a local school).

The nurse also spoke to us about how productive SAAJ has been, and through this we learned that teenagers are now much more willing to seek help, and find it much easier to maintain a healthy sexual life. It needs to be mentioned here that with the guidance from SAAJ, there has been a drastic decline in  STDs cases. The nurse also explained how the different contraceptive methods work (such as both male and female condoms, pills, the DIU and the implants), and told us both the free consultations and medication that are provided. The elimination of cost encourages more people to go and seek help. At that specific SAAJ centre, all the materials used were donated by N’weti, and the NGO also helps to organize many campaigns to help raise awareness about this SAAJs, as well as supervises them to make sure the work is being done to the highest standard possible.

After leaving the Xipamanine health centre, we followed the N’weti representatives to the Chamanculo neighbourhood. At first we encountered a crowd of people sitting and watching what looked to be a local dancing competition.

Engaging Women On Sexual and Reproductive Health

After a closer observation, we noticed that an overwhelming majority of the crowd consisted of females. However, it was only after a winner had been chosen that we finally understood the true aim of the gathering – spread awareness about sexual and reproductive health. Towards the end of the show, another representative led our group to the several different areas, which had been organized as part of the event.

We first went to an area decorated with pamphlets related to HIV and other STDS. We were then showed the tents where the community can have a consultation with a nurse about sexual health, family planning, and have both HIV tests and contraceptive implants performed straight away.

This is very effective for the locals of the neighbourhood as they might not be able to go to the hospitals, but can still get treated for free. There was also another section with several nurses teaching the community how to use contraceptives, we found this effective for those who are reluctant to seek help. At the event, they also collected feedback from the locals on how they were treated at the hospitals, and this can be very effective as the organizers plan to improve local services. Overall, it was very pleasing to see the organizations trying to raise awareness in neighbourhoods and helping the locals, who might not have easy access to hospitals.

After learning so much about the Xipamanine health centre and the Chamanculo neighbourhood, we returned to N’weti’s office.

Social Media, Expression And Progress

There, Two of the N’weti representatives showed us the virtual platform which they use to operate their program (‘Tua Cena’) and their progress/success since 2014. Their success throughout each year was measured through various analytical charts within different categories, such as the popularity of social problems being HIV, sexuality, STD and FP. After highlighting the importance of the graphs and statistics, we (students of AISM & NGOs) analysed the many social problems presented by the graphs, thus deducing the meaning and limitations of the data.

What caught our attention was the fact that there were far more females than males reporting back to Mana N’weti (the virtual character the counsellors use to relate back to the people and make them feel safe), which is believed to be due to the females expressing themselves more. At the beginning of the program in June 2015, the statistics of messages received was relatively low, but in 2015 the statistics spiked and 2016 is still struggling to catch up to that number. We must take in consideration, though, that the statistics coming from 2015 were recorded from January to December, while the data from 2016 is only from January to October. Due to this, the number of overall messages from this year are actually expected to surpass last year’s statistics.

It was also really interesting to see how even though N’weti is not physically present in all provinces of Maputo, their methods of communication are so effective that they receive messages from all parts of the country, as well as from outside of Mozambique. We believe that their television and radio announcements are highly responsible for this, but just the fact of being available through social media also highly extends their abilities to help everyone in need, regardless of their locations. This is extremely important because the whole country needs help on the topics they cover, so the bigger the amount of communication, the more effective their work will become. The whole group was engaged by the presentation, and lots of questions were raised and clarified about how the “Tua Cena” functions from both ends (AISM students and our partners).

A Fulfilling Learning Experience

As mentioned before, the whole of today was planned by N’weti, and we were extremely pleased with their hospitality. They received both AISM students as well the other organizations (Coalizão, ASSCODECHA and DFID) with open arms, and we couldn’t have felt more welcome. They showed us their work in the community with great excitement, and seeing all of their passion was truly inspiring. Not only did they provide us with a great insight on what they do, but they also took great care in making us feel comfortable and provided us with snacks and a delicious lunch. They did everything in their power to include us in all places and conversations, and always encouraged our participation. They listened to our opinions and inquiries with great interest, and replied excitedly and passionately to everything. We are forever grateful and thank them very much for their hospitality.

At the end of the day we can undoubtedly say that the whole trip taught us a lot and left us with a lasting impression of how teenagers (aged 10 to 24) in Mozambique learn about sexual-education through N’weti, other organizations and medical centers. We were able to take into account how NGOs (N’weti in particular) help to improve the sexual health of teenagers in Mozambique, and taught that they were very effective in promoting and advertising their causes, which definitely encourages a positive future for the NGO. Overall, the service learning day was very fulfilling, ending with all the partners involved benefiting from the experience and having an amazing day. Next time, our host will be Coalizão, and we are all excited to learn from them and to get ready to serve.

Written by,

International Development Service Learning Team

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