Afrofest: Music for Social Change in Africa

“How can we live in the hood, I think how my life will be, let’s take responsibility and stop doing drugs, let’s be enlightened and stop doing drugs.” – “Madawa” (“Illegal Drugs”) by Sounds of Change.

An Afrofest attendee with YCI volunteer, Andrew (from Athletes for Africa).

This past weekend, YCI attended Afrofest in Queen’s Park. (Thanks again to all our great volunteers for giving us a hand this weekend!) Afrofest is an annual free celebration of African music and culture presented by Music Africa.

While we have a range of programs worldwide, it seemed like a great opportunity–not to mention a perfect fit–to share how YCI uses music for social change in Africa:

Sounds of Change: the one-pager we distributed at Afrofest

Edutainment as a Key Methodology

YCI recognizes edutainment as a widely accessible and interactive medium that is uniquely youth-based. Working with partners in Africa, YCI uses music and drama as a means of conveying messages about HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and other high-risk behaviours.

To date, YCI has helped to support the Sounds of Change, a group of Kenyan youth who write and perform music that focuses on high-risk behaviours. Talent nights in Tanzania, where hip-hop artists perform about issues that concern them, engage thousands of youth annually. YCI has even used music to encourage youth to vote—leading up to the 2008 election in Ghana, volunteers recorded a radio jingle called “Why Vote” in Twi, Ewe and English.

Edutainment has proven to be a powerful medium for encouraging African youth to get tested for HIV/AIDS, adopt healthy lifestyles and engage in their communities. Moving into 2010, YCI continues to develop exciting new models for youth engagement through edutainment programming.

Edutainment in Action: HIV/AIDS & Music in Tanzania

In 2009-2010 alone, more than 780 youth in Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana learned their HIV status through YCI events.

Due to economic vulnerability and poor access to condoms, health services and youth-friendly information, Tanzanian young people are especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. In Zanzibar and Morogoro, YCI volunteers work closely with partners and local youth to plan youth-friendly HIV/AIDS awareness events called “Ushujaa kwa Uhai,” which is Swahili for “Courage for Life.”

Music plays a key role at the events, with messages about HIV/AIDS and substance abuse infused into hip-hop, dance and theatre. Along with condom demonstrations, testing is provided at the events, and bracelets—similar to the popular “Live Strong” bracelets—are supplied with to those who participate in testing, indicating that they have “Courage for Life.” Ushujaa serves not only to educate youth, promote condom use and provide testing, but also to reduce stigma. As a result, young people have been able to improve their knowledge, learn about methods of prevention, and address issues of marginalization for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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