A young woman is sitting anxiously in front of a doctor and a psychologist. She is holding a baby in her arms. It looks healthy enough, but is it really? The young woman has HIV and has had her daughter tested. She breaks down in tears when she hears the result – tears of joy. The child is not infected.
The film entitled “Mother to Child” ends with this piece of good news. It aims to give courage to the young women sitting in the audience. It shows that it is not automatically the case that their child has HIV if they are infected themselves. It is possible to prevent the transmission of the infection, and in principle it can even be treated. Many women neither have themselves nor their children tested because they simply do not know what help is available.
It is really very difficult for people to talk and exchange information about these topics. For the people living in the region of Southern Africa, the organisation Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects (STEPS) has found a way to change that. In 2001, the non-profit organisation was founded in Cape Town, and it was awarded the Teddy Award during the Berlinale (film festival in Berlin) in 2013.
STEPS makes and produces films such as "Mother and Child" in which young people in particular tell their own stories and speak about taboos, thus making them actors for their own cause. There are meanwhile more than 200 films about illness, drug addiction, poverty, violence and the destruction of the environment, human rights and education. Self-help initiatives and civil societal partner organisations of STEPS show these films publicly, mostly in the village squares or community huts in rural communities or groups. The necessary equipment and screens are brought by jeep or boat. Afterwards, there is a focused discussion. STEPS supports its partners by providing pedagogical training and accompanying material in different languages.
The films are an important door opener. They help people to find a way of talking together because they empathise, understand and recognise themselves in the stories. They often then question their own attitudes, speak with one another and act together. In this way, young mothers in Malawi founded a self-help group to enable all the children in their community to attend school. There are training sessions for opposition parties in Botswana on the topic of democracy. And Zimbabwe has written into the new constitution that the practice of child marriage is illegal.
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