Friday, August 25, 2006

Dia de Hommems

I think of all the days of the week here in Mozambique Friday is my favourite. The beginning of the weekend, the reception of pay cheques, the close of the work week and an early finishing hour all contribute to give a Friday a joyous feeling on the streets of Maputo. The tradition of some of the MMF staff here is to go to the popular Museu Baracas for some good home cooked Mozambican lunch and a cold beer or two. These baracas are an ideal meeting spot for the men of Maputo to share stories, crack jokes, wax philosophically and relax after a long work week.

It is no wonder that Fridays in Mozambique are also referred to as “Men’s day,” a day for men to feel like kings and enjoy the camaraderie of their closest friends, colleagues and associates. This seems to suit the women of Maputo just fine as they also get a chance on Fridays to get together with their girlfriends in one of the numerous “salaos” (beauty saloons) throughout the city. For every baraca selling beer to the men of Maputo, there is a salao catering to the beautification of this city’s women.

My colleague Narcisso also emphatically refers to Friday as “Sex-ta Feira!!” a cleaver take on the Portuguese work for Friday seixa-feira (pron. saysh-ta fah-rah). Mozambican guys are no doubt extra “charged up” on this day and become slightly more emboldened in their relations with the ladies. In a country where the fight against HIV/AIDS relies so critically on the promotion of safe sex, discussions regarding the Mozambican sexual culture inevitably become rather controversial. This same controversy was displayed at the recent International HIV/AIDS Conference held in Toronto. The issues at hand are the common perceptions, and misperceptions, about African sexuality, and, in particular, the sexual nature of African men.

HIV/AIDS strategies in Africa have long followed the popular “ABC” creed (1st Abstain, 2nd Be Faithful, 3rd Wear a Condom). Now there is a huge debate opening up between organizations and donors that openly advocate the use and distribution of condoms and those that push abstinence and monogamy messages while denouncing the usefulness and morality of condoms and other safer sex practices. The fight against HIV/AIDS in Mozambique, and in many parts of Africa, is burdened by this debate and the foreign interests that are involved in the advocacy of each position.

My opinion is that HIV/AIDS strategies must recognize the importance of promoting safe sex among youth and young adults. Certainly faithfulness and waiting till one is ready to engage in sexual relations are important values and principles to promote, but certainly not at the expense of providing support for access to safer sex knowledge and materials. Africans are very sexual people but all of us in this world are sexual beings with sexual appetites. Recognizing the realities of sex, defending sexual rights of both men and women and safeguarding against harmful sexual practices are integral in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Mozambique and throughout the world.

Anyway, these are just some thoughts of mine on Firday afternoon, but I should go as I’m already late for the Baraca!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting all cute at a salao to meet "charged up" boys at a baraca?? I think I could live in Mozambique...

6:50 p.m.  

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