SNEAK PEEK Winstone Antonio

MUSIC is considered to be a powerful tool and has been important with many movements. Not only in Zimbabwe is the power and influence of music seen as playing a significant role in disseminating HIV and Aids-related information.

Local music promoter Samuel “Boss Werras” Saungweme, in partnership with National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and several other musicians across genres are part of an initiative to educate people, mainly the youths, on the HIV and Aids epidemic.

Werras Entertainment has organised several concerts across the country as edutainment to raise awareness and tackle social issues affecting ghetto youths such as drug abuse, abortion and child marriages.

Top dancehall singers Seh Calaz and Killer T headline the Youth Health Awareness concert alongside Caychi, Senator Tichareva and Simross set for Saturday at Kushinga School Grounds in Hopley. NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio caught up with Boss Werras (BW) and below are excerpts from the interview.

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ND: As Werras Entertainmen, what has led you to join hands in the fight against HIV/Aids through the arts?

BW: With an estimated HIV prevalence of 13%, Zimbabwe is among countries with the highest HIV prevalence, so as an arts promotion company, we have decided to join the cause in the fight against this deadly disease.

Werras Entertainment, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other funding entities, we conduct HIV and Aids musical concerts in areas identified by health experts and our partners as hot spots.

We are using music as a tool to attract the youths in and out of school who are hard to reach using traditional public health systems.

As Werras Entertainment and our health service partners, we are committed to contribute towards the reduction of new HIV infections among adolescents and young people, as well as to help equip adolescents and young people with life skills.

ND: Your target group is young people. What strategies are you using to engage them?

BW: Our target group is those in and out of school, adolescents as well as youths in tertiary institutions since adolescents and young people have been prioritised in Zimbabwe’s efforts to prevent HIV infections. We are using initiatives like the HIV and Aids musical exposé that we have rolled out in all the country’s districts to enable the youth’s access friendly HIV prevention services. We have realised that musical galas can go a long way in mass education. This has proved that it can help reduce costs in this era of economic challenges.

Through music and arts, we can educate, reduce and eradicate HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, cancer, drug abuse, abortion, early marriages and sexually related health issues among the youth. This also provides an opportunity for musicians to educate and entertain their fans, which is a very rare exposure because of the number of people who will be in attendance as the shows will be free of charge.

ND: Are communities appreciating such initiatives?

BW: Communities are appreciating our creativity as they are benefiting immensely by receiving free health services, entertainment and interacting with their role models. During our musical events, health services that include, but not limited to HIV testing services, cancer screening, TB screening, condom distribution, voluntary male circumcision, one-on-one health education and CD4 count, will be offered free of charge to the youths. In our programmes, we have selected musicians who we work with for arts talent identification among the youths. The selected musician helps in the dissemination of HIV and Aids awareness campaigns using various social media platforms.

ND: This Saturday, you are set to host a free dancehall concert themed Youth Health Awareness in Hopley to educate youths on social issues affecting them. Share more details about this forthcoming event.

BW: The Hopley Youth Health Awareness concert is our first event of the year with the help of the Health and Child Care ministry, National Aids Council and other stakeholders. We have lined up a well-balanced team of young artistes to entertain and educate the youths. We are very grateful with the overwhelming support we are getting from our partners. We hope this event will open the door for us to work with many other stakeholders in the health sector.

ND: What are some of the challenges you have faced?

BW: We are not spared from the economic challenges the country is going through. Funding has been difficult to come by, but with the help of our partners and the little resources we have, we are managing. I would like to thank New Avakash International for their overwhelming support towards the cause.

ND: You have staged several concerts across the country, how has the response been so far?

BW: So far so good. The response from the communities has been encouraging. Such responses give us strength to keep pushing towards the fight against HIV/Aids, among other related health issues.

ND: Your parting words?

BW: We would want to invite the young people in Hopley and Greater Harare to join us this Saturday so that they can have access to various health services for free.They will also be entertained. This is their day; we must make it happen. As Werras Entertainment, we always say a happy and healthy soul is a tool for developing Zimbabwe.