Young Mozambicans are using a community radio station to engage teenage boys on how existing gender dynamics impact sexual and reproductive health.
Inside their little studio that reaches thousands of young Mozambicans, a section of the wall is lined with egg cartons for soundproofing purposes. Once the main door is closed no sound can enter or escape the studio.
The studio, part of the InterACT radio station, has four chairs, a sound mixer, five main microphones for presenters and guests, and the walls are decorated with blue and black Capulana, a traditional fabric.
Radio presenter Khensane Nyabongo is just 21 years old. She will host the show today. An engineer signals they are ready to go on air and the show kicks off with a humorous skit.
In the show, a young man named Maru is being bullied by his peers to indulge in ill-doings, not respect women, smoke marijuana and be promiscuous. When he refuses, they call him “Matreku”, which translates to a weak man.
After the skit ends, a student who identifies himself as Alfredo calls in saying he can relate to the story and asks for advice.
Nyabongo, who is also a volunteer for Voluntary Service Overseas, an international aid organization, picks the call and helps Alfredo.
Listening clubs at schools across the capital Maputo can directly call the radio station — using their teacher’s phones — asking for advice.
Skits performed at the radio show tackle pressing issues such as early marriages and drug abuse.
Nyabongo says: “There is a precarious environment for young girls and women in Mozambique. The pressure to marry young is high. There are low levels of education.
“These are some accepted cultural norms that we use our radio show to fight — those that put women at a disadvantage.”
She says that few girls in Mozambique finish school. “The show has been able to make young boys the guardians of their sisters fighting negative stereotypes.”
Schoolchildren living with the human immunodeficiency (HIV) now have a platform to learn about their status, fight discrimination and stigma, and continue their education uninterrupted.
Jareeyah Issufo, a 14-year-old listener, says she has learned a lot from the show.
“I have learned that it is important not to let our friends influence the decisions that we make,” Issufo said.
Frank Claudina, 15, says he never misses the show.
“I respect the girls in my school and work with them for a better future, the show has taught me a lot about respecting girls and supporting them, they are our equals and sisters.”
Children below the ages of 15 make up 42.5% of the 29-million-strong Southeast Africa nation. Some 1.2 million children are out of school, more girls than boys, according to the UN.
The Education Ministry has repeatedly said girls often drop out of school because of teenage pregnancies and early marriages. An average of 5.5 children are born per woman in the country, according to official figures.
When asked why use radio to reach the youth, Nyabongo says it is because they are more common in Mozambique than mobile phones.
“The use of social media and other platforms is growing but we still see radio as our best choice for these projects especially for the kind of impacts we want to have. Everyone, owns or listens to the radio,” she said.