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South Africa
Project Summary
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Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Themba HIV & AIDS Organisation is a non-profit organisation that uses interactive theatre and action-based training to influence behaviour change, enable dialogue about HIV and related issues, and promote healthy relationships, gender equality, safer sex and non-violence.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Low self-value and stability leads to risky choices

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Unleash creativity that channels experiences of risk and vulnerability toward leadership

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

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Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.

The Themba HIV & AIDS Organisation is a non-profit organisation that uses interactive theatre and action-based training to influence behaviour change, enable dialogue about HIV and related issues, and promote healthy relationships, gender equality, safer sex and non-violence.

What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?

Themba HIV & AIDS Organisation is committed to stopping the spread of HIV and has identified areas where young men are the most vulnerable in getting infected with HIV.

1. Each year Themba facilitates auditions of disadvantaged youth who have an interest in theatre and health education. We recruit specifically from unemployed, disadvantaged backgrounds as a means of developing their potential and building their capacity.
2. We target young men in schools because they are at their most impressionable age and the information is more easily absorbed because it is given to them by their peers. Short plays are performed to audiences who then become involved in the action, and practice negotiation and decision-making alongside the characters in the play.
3. We also facilitate training programmes for men in correctional centres (prisons). These men are at a turning point in their lives where they have to make choices: they can change their ways (not easy given the way masculinities are constructed) or continue living lives of crime and violence. Themba’s training in prisons also deals with prison sexuality in relation to homophobic discourses and violent practices.

It should be noted that a final reason why our initiative is uniquely positioned to create change in your community is that involving stakeholders in designing and managing the work is central to the ethos of Themba.

Describe how you organize and carry out your work?

Themba has worked hard to build relationships that result in broad community support of our work. We target the communities in which we want to perform or do training so that the people who join us come from the very communities whose needs we want to meet. Themba HIV & AIDS Organisation helps young men at risk to explore ways of transforming their lives and gives them strategies to keep themselves safe within the context of HIV and AIDS.

Secondly, we phone schools, and other organisations, to tell them about our work and to set up performances and training programmes. We particularly target institutions that support young men at risk.

Thirdly, before conducting a training programme in a community, we conduct a needs analysis to ensure that we meet their needs.

Fourth, we rehearse and develop our interactive performances and training programmes which we then take to our hosts. All the plays (with interactive activities) cover aspects of communication, relationships, discrimination, attitudes, sexual behaviour, ignorance and stigma – within the context of HIV, AIDS, VCT and gender norms. An understanding of the impact of diversity issues such as same-sex sexuality is integrated into all the training.

Fifth, we get written feedback after every performance or training programme. We seek community input and maximizing the involvement of women and men living with HIV/AIDS. Finally, Themba is committed to researching behaviour change methodologies (what works) and this requires that we maintain good relationships with the communities where monitoring and evaluation research is conducted.

What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?

Themba HIV & AIDS Organisation will continue to hold auditions each year to recruit young school leavers and equips them with theatre skills and HIV information. These young men (and women) will learn new skills which they can take into their own communities where they can use theatre to tackle social issues in relation to HIV.

Themba will continue to offer peer education training programmes to community-based organisations so as to enable them to use our innovative ways of stopping the spread of HIV. We are purposefully seeking out new partners in other provinces so that we can scale up our proven and effective interventions to attain greater coverage in the country, and enable replication.

Themba will continue to reach out to young boys/men in schools by using drama to challenge HIV myths, gender inequalities, and their knowledge on sexual issues. We will aim to stage at least 100 interactive performances per year.

Themba will continue to work with men in correctional centres (prisons) providing them with skills to change their lives.

Themba will continue to strengthen staff capacity by enabling staff to attend development and training workshops in project management, monitoring and evaluation, budgeting and financial management, and so on. “Experts” are also invited to Themba to workshop our staff once a month. These experts include actors, motivational speakers, gender experts, and business leaders.

Themba will write up its research findings and best practice recommendations.

What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?

Themba needs additional funding to continue and to expand our programmes to cover a wide number of audiences. Themba needs to recruit a development manager who can ensure that the organisation scales up its proven and effective interventions to attain greater coverage in the country by establishing other “branches”.

Describe your impact in one sentence, commenting on both the individual and community levels.

Themba’s interactive performances and training has been shown to positively influence the interpersonal skills, sexual behaviour and practices of young men at risk, with the result being that they are able to serve as non-violent role models and safer sex peer educators in their communities.

What impact has your work achieved to date?

Two external evaluations were done of our work in the Boksburg Correctional Centre, one as part of the integrated Young Offenders Programme Evaluations conducted for the centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation , and the other by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Two other external evaluations have been carried out. In 2005, the independent consultant appointed to evaluate Themba’s work wrote the following in her report:

- The method used is highly appropriate and successful for the context within which it is used
- The impact on its target populations is well articulated. For example, dialogue about sexuality and HIV/AIDS issues has been initiated and encouraged amongst learners and educators in schools targeted as a result of the project.
- Themba has a unique and evolving method of interactive theatre
- The project has made a positive impact on actor/educators and has become a life changing experience for them, in relation to HIV/AIDS in their own lives and actions, commitment and responsibilities
- The findings of this and the 2003 evaluation concur, as they indicate that Themba is making a significant impact on changing attitudes, and perceptions amongst young people it has worked with. While it is recognised that measuring the impact of education and awareness interventions in terms of long-term behaviour change is complex, there are indicators that the programme is making a real difference not only to targeted young people and other participants, but to trainee actor-educators and Themba staff as well. The facts about HIV/AIDS and prevention are now known and major personal development has occurred resulting in more confident, caring and assured young people. This was not only confirmed through anecdotal evidence but also with monitoring and evaluation tools that are now being utilised by Themba. For example, pre and post questionnaires, self and group evaluation of actor-educators and post evaluation of the Integrated Youth Offender Programme.

Full evaluation reports are available on application.

Number of individuals served

Over 50 000 people have been reached.

Community impact

In addition, we get written feedback from the audience members and participants after each training session offered to another community based organisation. We use:
• Questionnaires for audience members ( teachers, learners , observers)
• Questionnaires for actor / educators for self-and peer-evaluation
• Questionnaires foe facilitators for self-and peer-evaluation
• Pre- and post – training questionnaires to measure changes in behavior, attitude, knowledge etc.
• Feedback from participants in follow up workshops and training workshops and training workshops
• Focus groups.

Society at large

Themba keeps statistics of the number of people for whom they perform or train, and all Themba trainers are training in Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E). All programmes are developed in light of the organisation’s analyses of the data. Themba also makes use of independent evaluation experts.

A longer-term view of the impact of the work will be established through return visits by Themba researchers to institutions where performances or training programmes have been delivered, through interviews and practice surveys, and through direct observation.

What measure do you use to gauge your impact and why?

Our indicators include:

1) the percentage of young people with increased knowledge about HIV and related issues
2) the percentage of young people who reject major misconceptions about HIV and HIV transmission
3) a positive attitude towards women asking a male partner to use a condom
4) a positive shift towards talking about different sexual practices and reflection on one’s own sexual practices
5) willingness to commit to behaviour change and gender-equitable relationships.

Informed by Prochaska and Diclemente’s behaviour change model, we want to ensure that our interventions contribute to increasing participants’ knowledge which in turn, through opportunities to be involved in role-plays, cameos and facilitated discussions, influences participants’ attitudes. These in turn, are influencing participants’ behaviour. These steps are usually outlined as pre-contemplation, contemplation, intention, preparation, action and maintenance or relapse – and we try to gauge impact accordingly.

How is your initiative currently being financed and how would you finance further expansion and/or replication?

Themba HIV & AIDS is primarily funded by grants from foundations and Trusts, and donations.
We have also recently set up the Themba Trust UK. The Trust will be tasked with supporting the Themba HIV/AIDS Organisation in their innovative and effective HIV prevention work in South Africa. It will do this by getting new UK-based funders for Themba HIV/AIDS.

Finally, we have adopted an Income generation strategy to support the pro bono work that we do. The organisation has business plans and budgets for 5 years, and has recruited and appointed a Training Coordinator with a background in enterprise development and HIV education. One of her tasks is to ensure that companies pay us to offer their staff our unique and interactive performances and training. By selling our services in this way, we will become less reliant on the generosity of donors.
Current partners include the Gauteng Departments of Health, Education, and Correctional Services, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Anglo American Chairmen’s Fund, and Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Provide information on your current finances and organization:

Money in the bank is approximately R400 000. We have yet to receive a further R600 000 in grant funding.

Who are your potential partners and allies?
Who are your potential investors?

Philanthropists and large foundations.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

Themba HIV & AIDS was started five years ago by two women, namely Kim Hope and Theresa Lynne. The aim of the project was to enable dialogue and influence behavior change. Founded in 2002 Themba HIV & Aids recently won the Mail & Guardian's Investing in the Future Most Innovative Award. This is not the first time that the “Mail and Guardian Awards” have recognized and acknowledged Themba’s hard work and dedication. Last year they were runner ups in the same category, and received a merit award.
Through its interactive theatre performances, Themba targets audiences of young people who are the high-risk group for contracting HIV, and gives them tools that help them make safe decisions around sexual behavior.
Themba’s secondary target group is adults- parents, teachers and workers. At each performance a short play is performed, and this is followed by the Interactive Themba Theatre (ITT) process. The audience members, primarily from disadvantaged communities, share their concerns, practice negotiating risk-free sexual encounters, explore non-risky behavior, take on roles within the drama, interact with the characters, speak the language around sex and learn more about the risks of unsafe sex, HIV and Aids.
Each year, the Non Government Organisations auditions, selects and then trains post-matric youth who have an interest in becoming actor-educators in the organisation's interactive performances. Since these participants are not charged fees, the organisation relies on funding to cover the cost of the training and job creation. Although not all participants will join the organisation as staff members, they all learn new skills and gain knowledge so that they can change their own sexual behaviours and make a difference in their communities. … knowledge so that they can change their own sexual behaviours and make a difference in their communities.
“What is possibly unique to Themba is that the methodology has evolved and been adapted to the local context, has drawn on sound theoretical frameworks including elements of, inter alia, Prochaska and Diclemente’s ‘Transtheoretical Cycle of Change model’, ‘Theatre for Social Change’, ‘Poor Theatre’ and ‘Forum Theatre’ and combined these issues and processes into a flexible and well informed model that is sensitive to the audience (or rather ‘participants’) and context and provides opportunity for participants to experience, revise and review potentially more positive behaviours. Simultaneously, the ‘actors’ become ‘actor-educators’ and extend themselves beyond the limitations of the ‘actor’ role, taking on social responsibility and the ethical notion of sharing critical information as a serious component of what would previously have been seen as purely ‘acting’. This places Themba and specifically Interactive Themba Theatre at the cutting edge of theatre development because ‘theatre for social change’ which is essentially what Themba is about, is still considered by some, internationally, as a ‘novel’ and ‘developing’ concept (Schildroth, COLIN COLLETT VAN ROOYEN, 2003)”.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material.

Eric Richardson is Managing Director and member of the Board of Themba HIV
& AIDS Organisation. He has been a teacher and hostel parent at the Jeppe
High School for Boys and a lecturer in Educational Studies at the University
of the Witwatersrand. Eric was one of the first South Africans to include in
initial teacher training courses dealing with heterosexism, masculinities,
safer schools and LGBT issues. He has published internationally, and
continues to write and give talks on social justice issues.

I heard about the Young Men at Risk competition from an announcement in The Drum Beat. I entered Themba because I want to showcase our great work, and receive
additional funding to enable us to extend the reach and impact of our
innovative programmes with young men.