Monday morning, 8th September. Maseru, Lesotho. I drive across the
border from South Africa to visit the mobile cinema team at Sesotho
Media. Its partly because of this project that we started Steps for
the Future eight years previously, a YLE/Day Zero co-production of 38
documentary and short films about people living in the time of HIV and
AIDS. Here, as in ten other countries across Southern Africa, the
films are still being screened. I meet the team, most of whom are HIV
+. Thabiso tells me about tests he has had, to try and find out the
problem of why his legs are not functioning properly.
Moalosi tells me his son, five years old and also HIV+, is doing fine. Thato, 23 years old, who found out she was positive when she lost her first baby, is
pregnant again and smiling. I am handed a letter from the Department
of Correctional Services thanking the Sesotho Media team and Steps for
showing films at their prisons, and asking us to continue this for all
prisons - male, female, juvenile - across the country.
Its tough showing films in the prisons, but the department is very
supportative. They send their wardens to the office to get sacks of
condoms donated by a German music festival for the prisoners. The
facilitators for the mobile cinema have to be very strong during the
discussions, because the films let out emotions and often create tense
moments. A prisoner stands up after the screening, and says "I am HIV
+". This causes his fellow inmates to get angry with him and blame him
for putting them in danger. But Moalosi and the others handle the
situation and use it to talk about prevention and discrimination.
The films are not didactic and so the facilitators need to know all about
HIV and AIDS and how to provide that information. This is the strength
of the films, that they bring out peoples questions and desire for
knowledge because the audience relates to the characters and the
situations they find themselves in. And they are still relevant after
My mission is to find more funding for Sesotho Media so that they can
continue to show films around the country. Its poor, with few roads,
and many mountains. Sometimes in the summer the 4-wheel drive vehicle
can't cross flooding rivers to get to the village where the screening
is happening. Or in winter its too cold to screen at night. But now
its the start of Spring, and its getting warm and the peach trees have
beautiful pink blossoms.
The reality is tough. I visit a newly started NGO, Sentebale <http://www.sentebale.org/
> and they tell me recent statistics about HIV in Lesotho. 1,7% of
the population is dying every year, thats eight times as many as in
South Africa. Of the 1,8 million people, there are now almost 400,000
orphans who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Most of those dying
are in the 21 to 35 year old group, and life expectancy is down to an
average of 36 years.
Its vital to reach the youth, those who are still HIV negative, and
provide them with enough education to help them stay negative. Thats
the only way to help save the nation. I propose that we join forces,
young people are eager to see films and Sentebale's focus is on the
youth. The charity has been started by two Princes - Prince Harry of
the U.K. and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, the King's brother. If they can
assist in raising funds to keep the mobile cinema running, we can
focus our programme more on young people. But we need some more
documentaries made with and for the youth.
When I leave Lesotho, Thabiso and Moalosi are running a workshop
training people from other organisations how to facilitate film
screenings. The Steps documentaries will reach more audiences, and
continue to have an impact that ultimately saves peoples lives.