By Grant Moyo
AN HIV and Aids awareness drama series MTV Shuga Down South — airing on DStv channel 322 every Tuesday — is clearly fulfilling social responsibility through relevant edutainment content that relates to issues affecting modern-day youths.
The recently-held free screenings by lead characters South Africans Sol (Ayanda Makayi) and Dineo (Mamarumo Marokane) in Bulawayo and Harare are a clear testimony of the positive impact the series is placing in the promotion of social development.
The edutainment drama series has played on television in 70 countries across the world. It has been previously filmed in Nigeria, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and the recent one was screened in Zimbabwe and filmed in South Africa.
MTV Shuga Down South, or simply Shuga, reveals how young people within the African continent are getting exposed to HIV and Aids. It discloses how society can be part of reducing HIV infections that seem to be a great challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Most of the scenarios in the show are based on real-life experiences. The dying of Tsulu, who was in an abusive relationship with a taxi driver – Sol — led to a real-life conversation with a group of young people in a community in South Africa. It is during the dialogue that one of the young ladies proposed that someone in the show should die. When asked why, she went on to say because those are real-life issues where people die”, said MTV Shuga representative.
“The character Dineo portrays an important scenario in our community right now where young ladies are involved with older men to either sustain their lives, take themselves to university or sustain their families.
“One might judge them for that, but it is the situation we are facing on a day-to-day basis as a community. These among many other scenarios highlight social issues and how we can deal with them.”
The drama series also touches on issues of toxic relationships, gender-based violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, young love and issues of sugar daddies and sugar moms.
It aims to create awareness among youths on different social issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis, mainly on sexual health and reproduction. Hence, the organisers engaged talented local artistes — Novuyo Sea-girl, Ti Gonzi, Fish F Ndaramu, Super Geeks, Mawiza and Hillzy — to perform prior to the screenings as a way of attracting youths into the initiative.
The screenings were a success, as a very large group of youths came through to watch the season of MTV Shuga Down South. This was topped by the engagements with the youths who showed that they were quite attentive in the question-and-answer sessions.
Some of the youths even after the sessions, kept coming to engage and talk about all the social issues they witnessed in the series. Others have even gone to the extent of sharing their own personal stories which they related with through the MTV Shuga Down South social media platforms.
“MTV Shuga is very appropriate to us young people in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole. We live in a world full of peer pressure, risks of being infected with sexually-transmitted diseases, drugs and violence. And because some of us come from poor family backgrounds, we tend to be involved in the wrongdoings because we want money”, said musician Novuyo Sea-girl.
“I have people close to me facing some of those issues. Drug abuse, HIV, domestic abuse, and young girls dating wealthy elderly men known as blessers or sugar daddies are part of our everyday life in the communities. So I definitely relate to the issues looked at in the drama series. Moreover, I am a victim of abuse.”
The main purpose of MTV Shuga is for youths to be aware of the social issues being brought out in the series and to engage youths in a free conversation. The drama series aims to create a space where youths can be able to talk about stuff they cannot discuss in other spaces. The idea is for young people to realise that they have the power to change the social ills.
“We realised that young people in Zimbabwe have a lot of social issues that they are going through and just need a safe space or people to talk to about them,” said the MTV Shuga representative.
“We even had two scenarios in Bulawayo where two young people approached us and shared personal stories that were sparked by the different stories told on the show.
“They indicated that in many cases they feel that the issues are unique to them only, yet they are issues happening to many young people.
“In Harare, young people felt at ease talking about sexual health issues to their peers than to older people. This indicated that there is need for youths to be well-informed and for us to have peer-to-peer educators. We need more spaces in Zimbabwe that bring such important dialogue.”
MTV Shuga hopes to film in Zimbabwe soon. There is need for the production to have enough funding and support from local stakeholders. The idea is to educate at the same time entertain audiences and create free conversation around topical issues.
Society has to freely talk about gender-based violence, HIV and Aids, child abuse, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and love, without fear. It is important that we have these open conversations so that we reduce their occurrences in our communities.
l Grant Moyo is a prolific writer, innovative media personality, entrepreneur and creative artist who is passionate about using his creative mind for the betterment of society. Follow him on Twitter: @TotemGrant