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The following post was written by Yasmin Mussa, Former WUSC Volunteer and Teen Club Project Assistant.
Moving Pass Stigma
May’s Teen Club was an event that many of the teens and Teen Club staff won’t soon forget. This month, we tackled perhaps one of the most prevalent yet sensitive issues facing our teens: HIV stigma. We were lucky enough to have support from members of the Centre for Youth of Hope (CEYOHO), an organization which provides care, support and education for young people living with HIV and AIDS. They are best known for being the hosts of the Miss Stigma-free beauty competition, a pageant in which all of the contestants are openly HIV-positive and not ashamed of who they are.
As always, the teens were split up into their respective groups after being introduced to the 10 newly-elected Teen Leaders. The younger teens remained in the clinic and began the session with a brief but eye-opening Q&A period led by our Peer Educator. Afterwards, the teens broke off into smaller groups and discussed internal and external sources of stigma—this was also visually depicted, as shown by the photo above. This facilitated some good discussion with the CEYOHO team, who shared their personal experiences with stigma and how they have successfully been able to overcome it. After each group presented, the teens wrote a personal letter addressed to HIV, which some of them were comfortable enough to share. This was a big moment for the teens, who wrote about how HIV would not define them as a person—it was clear that the day’s lessons had some effect.
The older teens convened just outside of the main doors, where the CEYOHO representatives spoke to the group about their life experiences and how they have risen above societal and self-stigma. Teens hung onto every word spoken by these exceptional role models, and seemed genuinely impacted by what was being said. Next, small groups were formed to prepare a short skit that dealt with stigma. A well-received activity, teens took this opportunity to display their acting and comedic chops. When it came time to present the dramas, the teens did really well at providing entertainment value while still getting across the important underlying messages. Once both groups had finished their respective activities, everybody met in the main waiting area to let loose with “The World’s Greatest” Dance, an easy but infectious dance that you can’t help but smile at. A great way to end off a great afternoon.
Coming up with activities that would address this delicate subject in a tasteful, fun and informative manner was no easy feat. But the afternoon was filled with humour and knowledge-sharing, and empowerment. We’d like to give a big thanks to CEYOHO, and especially Mma Basha, for making this month’s Teen Club such a success. We can only hope that the lessons learned will remain with the teens for the rest of their lives, and they can go on to inspire others. On a personal note, it was a great way to cap off the incredible year I’ve spent with Teen Club and in Botswana. Teen Club ya chesa!