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Eh!woza (ehwoza.com) is a public engagement (PE) project that forms collaboration between biomedical researchers, conceptual artists, anthropologists, a local NGO, musicians, and young people living in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town. The programme operates at the intersection of PE, youth education, and advocacy, with the ultimate aim of decreasing stigma and encouraging positive health seeking behaviour.
Eh!woza’s core programme consists of three projects: Eh!woza Doccies, engages youth in Khayelitsha with high impact biomedical research conducted at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. Subsequently, learners are guided in the production of short documentaries about the personal and social impact of HIV/TB. With 4-5 documentaries produced annually, films also touch on issues such as access, inclusion, gender-based violence and social justice. MSF/Muso/DR-TB Collab, forms collaboration Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and facilitates story-telling between survivors of drug resistant TB and young Khayelitsha-based musicians. The aim is the production of music, music videos and poetry reflecting the experience of having and surviving DR-TB/HIV. Eh!woza Schools uses media produced in the projects above to stimulate robust and lively discussion around the social determinants of health.
Qualitative evaluation suggests that the value of Eh!woza is not simply the diffusion of biomedical knowledge about disease or media production skills. Rather, its innovation lies in the ability engender a sense of agency among participants and, in the process, to reveal lived often unspoken, realities of people affected by HIV/TB within prevailing social, economic and cultural frameworks. While, Eh!woza is becoming a self-sustainable programme, there are programmatic areas which require strengthening, including long-term funding and human resource capacity, and the need for more frequent formal impact assessment.
Recently, Eh!woza was awarded a three-year grant to establish an independent platform for PE within the region and thus an independent non-profit organisation. The new programme, which starts in 2020, focusses on four key areas: Consolidation of aforementioned projects to ensure sustainable implementation; expansion of collaborative networks to ensure maximal impact of PE work; embedding a multi-pronged approach to impact assessment within the programme and developing innovative quantitative methods to assess the impact of health PE; and capacity development to train members of beneficiary communities to contribute to, and ultimately lead, PE as well as the skills of biomedical researchers to implement meaningful PE.