Finally, we also support communities by providing multi-level engagement such as regular performances, workshops and important events. These are crucial in inspiring the next generation to join Brass for Africa and take part in our programmes, and in tackling key factors such as HIV/AIDS, gender equality, disability inclusion and children’s rights to education amongst other topics.
Q3. Why do you think it’s important to empower communities?
Answer: Empowering communities, and partnering with local leaders, also helps create awareness for the safety and the rights of children in the areas where we work in. It also helps in tackling key issues such as HIV/AIDS stigma, gender inequality, and other push factors.
For example, last month in Kalangala – located in one of Uganda’s islands with the highest cases of HIV/AIDS – participants from our Music & Life-Skills programme took part in the local radio programme. They were able to address issues such as HIV/AIDS Knowledge, parental abuse, and forced early marriages in the community. This came as a result of imparting the Life-Skills Programme and believing that you can impact a change in your community.
So, empowering the community – especially the youth – helps reduce issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender inequality, child abuse and denying children rights to education and other push factors.
Q4. In which ways do you think Brass for Africa has achieved community empowerment?
Answer: Good question, let’s go back to the previous example about Kalangala.
The town of Kalangala, located in the Ssesse Islands, has the highest percentage incidence of HIV infection in Uganda. According to the UN, it is estimated that 18% of the population is infected, compared to 7.3% nationally.
Last year, we partnered with the Mercury Phoenix Trust to deliver a comprehensive music education, life-skills training and HIV/AIDS awareness programme for disadvantaged children, adolescents and young people in the area. Through weekly training sessions and a partnership with the District Health Office, we have been able to make a significant contribution towards an AIDS-free generation and the reduction of stigma associated with the condition. In fact, our latest monitoring and evaluation process has confirmed that we have increased the comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS amongst the youth to 72% from 50%, and reduced the stigma of those living with HIV/AIDS by an impressive 18%, from 34%.
By engaging beneficiaries and their communities on a weekly basis, Brass for Africa has been able to transform mindsets and create an informed and supportive community who are now knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. We have also demonstrated to community leaders the possibilities and the potential in using music as a tool to develop essential life skills and create social interventions to reverse the cultural beliefs and effects of HIV/AIDS.
Community empowerment has also helped to improve the performance of our participants, for example, they would fear to ask questions in class when they are studying mathematics, English and other subjects, the reason being they thought that other people could laugh at them. But when we teach them music and life skills, we tell them that “if you do not really understand something, do not feel ashamed to have that confidence to ask”. And they have transferred those skills and I think, when we see our participants’ grades in academic classes improving, we feel like we have achieved what we want.