"Knowledge is Power, Power is Knowledge": Witnessing the impact of K4Health as Swaziland's Nkamanzi Community Info Centre opens the door to HIV/AIDS knowledge
Recently, while in Swaziland to assist the Soka Uncobe Project in developing a toolkit containing project materials and essential information on male circumcision, I was fortunate enough to attend the Nkamanzi Community Info Centre launch. While I did not understand every piece of the program due to many speeches being given in the local language, SiSwati, I discerned that they were giving praises to the implementing partners, including Knowledge for Health (K4Health), SAfAIDS, and NERCHA. Hearing high-level officials speak about the very project I work on while sitting on a mountainside in Swaziland was quite special to me.
The event location was beautifully situated on one of the many mountains in Swaziland within the Nkamanzi community. The conference was well attended with community members, children, and government officials.
The program featured many speakers including: Busi Dlamini, the Info Centre Manager, Craig Cloud, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Rodgers Mamba, the Minister of Tinkhundla Administration and Development, Dr Derek Von Wissell, Executive Director at the National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA), Winnie Nxumalo, the Minister of ICT, and the Chief Gija, Chief of Nkamanzi.
The entertainment portion of the program was a real treat with male and female adolescents from the community performing traditional dancing in traditional clothing. The young people sang beautifully and showcased such skill in their dancing and coordination with one another. A group of young female adolescents also performed poetry with messages focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention that can be gained through the Nkamanzi Community Info Centre. One key statement that was repeated by each girl was, “knowledge is power, power is knowledge”.
Concluding the program, a ceremonial red ribbon was cut to signify the official opening of the Info Centre. Community members and government officials toured the Info Centre, checked out the materials, and asked questions. Info Centre volunteers from the community manned NetBooks displaying K4Health Toolkits and important Swaziland documents. The event ended in a feast prepared by community members throughout the morning and gave me a taste of the traditional dishes of the area.
All attendees, specifically the community members, are excited and overjoyed to have the Info Centre so close to their doorstep and the prospect of using this resource to control their own destiny in the fight against the HIV virus. Sometimes while in the Baltimore office, you forget about the reach that your project has. Specifically, I was able to see that K4Health assists many of these community members on learning more about protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS. I feel lucky that I was able to attend such a great event and learn so much about this community, the culture of Swaziland, and meet many wonderful people.