The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Dance Workshop for Keetmanshoop Youth

It's back to school time for many youths who are either transitioning to high school or university/college. This transition is not always smooth because of circumstances they cannot always control.

It is for this reason that the Keetmanshoop Multi-purpose Youth Centre (KMPYC) opened its doors for out-of-school youths, helping to keep the youths productive and off the streets.

This year, the centre is starting off with a dance workshop which will be held in conjunction with the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO). Philippe Talavera, director of the OYO dance troupe, says that the decision to take part in this workshop stems from the group's core objectives of creating social awareness with young people through art and dance.

"We have a dancer from the United Kingdom, Hellen Linsell, who is helping us on a piece on HIV-AIDS and we thought it's a good idea to share it with the KMPYC so that they can in turn use it in their community," says Talavera.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services released the latest sentinel survey, showing the HIV prevalence in various regions. The survey showed a decline in the prevalence rate amongst young people but showed an increase amongst women. During the five months of the survey, out of 8 047 pregnant women tested, 1 382 were under the age of 19.

"The prevalence rate in Keetmashoop is 10,6 percent. It is still under the national average. However, we feel it is important in communities such as Keetmanshoop to constantly reinforce the message of HIV prevention," says Talavera. It is with this background that OYO embarked on this project, with the dance piece on HIV-AIDS.

These workshops are very important to OYO and hosting them in small towns is even more meaningful, says Talavera.

"The youth in bigger towns have lots of opportunities but small towns are neglected. If the youth in small towns don't get the same opportunities, they will just be drinking," says a passionate Talavera.

During the workshop, OYO will work together with a group of young people in the 'dream team', a group of youths from Keetmanshoop.

The piece, created by Hellen Linsell, looks at a young girl who had unprotected sex. It will look at decisions faced by the young girl on whether she should go for an HIV test, learn her status and then plan her life in a better way, or whether she should refuse to go for the test, continue to have multiple sexual partners and in the process infect more people.

"We hope the piece will be eye opening. We hope it'll help the workshop participants to learn new dance techniques (the piece is very physical so get ready to sweat!) but also reflect on this girl's situation. Hopefully, people seeing the piece will be motivated to go for testing," said Talavera.

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