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”.