A wedding in Africa?

“If I get married I want to have my wedding in Africa.” I blurted out the other day.

My mother looked at me with a confused expression..

“Sure, it’s a long shot.. and I don’t know most of the continent, so I guess I mean Mozambique.. “

…? She wasn’t getting it.

“It’s about the party – people dance, hug and have a great time! It’s real, no matter the age! So much love and good vibes.. Plus the awesome tradition of Dança da familia. I want all that!”

..you better find yourself somebody to marry first.

Touché. And if I ever do and can’t bring my loved ones to Moz, I’ll at least try to bring the tradition of dancing. :)

Mena and Celio’s wedding in 2012 is still the most beautiful reception I have attended. Here’s some nostalgia and lots of dancing. Not easy to dance these tunes without heels, I tell you, but it was a long day! Come join in on the fun.

Smile of the Day from UNICEF Mozamibique

Along with a photo I took in the little village Changara back in 2012.

Good morning!

my passport 2005 – 2013

A quick run through my old passport that has been joining me since I started travelling five years ago. I had to renew it as I only had two pages left for stamps and will be travelling soon again. Receiving the new, empty, modern passport felt like starting from scratch, like rebooting the system. What’s next? What now? Was that it? I don’t know.

After speaking to friends who’s biggest obstacle to travelling is the whole process of standing in line for, applying for, paying for, waiting for and hoping for a visa, I have become increasingly thankful for my EU passport that opens doors of trust in most places. Truth is, I’ve only had to apply for visa through an embassy for three of the 38 countries I visited since this passport was printed. Thank you, Sweden.

The simple things in life

“Out of the simple things in life, the rather insignificant ones – things are inspired”

Many things were inspiring about Tinashe, his struggle against rhino poaching, his voice, his natural eloquence. But most of all, Nash inspired with the love and interest he had for the most simple of details in life, for the human mind, for nature, for friendship.

The video below is from when Nash dropped me off on the road where one catches a ride to hitch-hike over the border to Botswana. The sun was rising, and the waterfalls in the distance had created their own little clouds, their own microclimate. “Very fascinating,” he said. Fascinating indeed.

Happy birthday, Nash.

Teach me how to Hula Hoop!

Chibuto, Gaza province, Mozambique
August 2012

The bell at Bairro 3 da Cidade School in Chibuto rings for a break and the children run out of their classrooms to grab their favourite colour; the pink, yellow, green and blue hula hoops spread out all over the schoolyard, and the air fills with a characteristic soft swooshing buzz, created by grains of sand inside of the plastic rings.

The hulahooping skills of the children are impressive. The bright, neon-coloured rings are so popular that the district invites students to showcase their talents at official events. In addition to its value as a simple and fun form of exercise, the hula-hooping and cheering attracts younger children to the schoolyard.

Tarcizia Narcizo Nguzi is 8 years old, and busy hula-hooping. “I have already done it ten times today!” she shouts, showing off how she can spin the plastic ring around her waist, her arm, her neck and her leg. “I will be a doctor when I grow up, and I will tell my patients to play with hula-hoops. My teacher says it is good for the body!”

The school’s physical education teacher, Jose Carlos Manhica, incorporates hula-hoops daily into his work. “We have received more than 50 of them as part of our sports kit from the UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools initiative. They provide an easy and fun mean of activity for the children, and there are many kinds of exercises one can do with them. For our circumstances, it is perfect.”

Director of Pedagogy Joana Francisco Cuna says she is pleased with the physical education and sport classes. “Children love to play, and it keeps them healthy. Our school is always invited to present a show whenever there are events in the district. We are very proud of the children, and of our school,” she says.

Both Mrs. Cuna and Mr. Manhica have noted that the school has started to attract younger children since the sports initiative started. “Look at this boy, for example,” Mr. Manhica says, pointing to 7 year-old Eugenio Romeo Machava: “he started coming here two years before beginning school!” Eugenio smiles shyly. “It’s true. I had friends here, and I wanted to play with the hula-hoops. There was no problem, I could be here and the students taught me how to use the rings. I was really looking forward to starting school.”

This is exactly what Mr. Manhica wants to highlight, he has been a teacher at Bairro 3 da Cidade for 10 years, and has witnessed a change. “We definitely have more children in the schoolyard now than before. The younger children come to play, and they even participate in the physical education classes from a distance. What is most important though is that they are getting used to school and to being here. The colours of the hula-hoops attract them, and they get to know the older children. All of this greatly facilitates their adjustment during the first months of school.”

“And I can do it like this as well!” Tarcizia shouts to us from a distance, hula-hooping with her knees.

Published in the UNICEF Publication: Child-Friendly Schools – Stories from Mozambique & on the UNICEF Mozambique website
Photos & Text © UNICEF Mozambique/2012/Caroline Bach

The problem is not always that there are no school buildings available, often, a challenge is to get children to actually come to school, to convince their parents that their children should be studying instead of working, to make the children realize the importance of being in school, and to keep them there.

Who would have thought that a simple thing such as some colourful hulahoops would attract so many young minds? There are a lot of surprises to learn from the field, and the most trivial details often prove to be very important. Can a box containing a couple of hulahoops, two footballs and some other sport gear increase the school attendance in a small Mozambican village? Yes, yes it can.

So, how do you find out what works and what doesn’t? Mainly by asking. Going to the field and asking people what the most important things in their lives are, asking about priorities, preferences, about obstacles and how these could be removed, about what they would like to change in their realities. And then, most importantly, asking how they imagine this change, and how they think they could be the central and leading part of it.

What about children? What are their priorities when outside of responsibilities, how do they distract themselves? What do they want?
Kids want entertainment, play, something exciting, a challenge, a feeling of belonging, friendship. Things that will help them develop their social skills and personalities, things that will give them the feeling of accomplishment and pride.

Sniffing glue, selling drugs, getting married or dropping out of school just to start selling chewing gum in the street of a nearby city isn’t as exciting any more once your teacher has explained the importance of education and all the dangers of those bad practices, and introduced you to the possibility of becoming the school champion in long jump instead, or a great football player, despite being a girl. That’s why we call it Sports for Development.

Behind the scenes with Flora Matos

Remember the Brazilian MC Flora Matos that I met last year? She just released a new song a month ago, and her talent for simple, personal and beautiful lyrics filled with little metaphors and an overwhelming presence struck me with awe once again.

“Eu fico iluminada assim, nem me enxergo
Com você perto de mim não tem papo
Eu quero a vida inteira assim e não nego
Basta te encontrar, eu, você e o universo
Pra manter nosso clima assim, tão direto

Seu perfume é um soul, com essência de afeto

– His scent is soul with an essence of affection


Flora Matos – Comofaz
(March 2013)

“Quando você parte leva junto a minha paz, machuca o coração pensar que a gente pode não se ver mais, não se ter mais.

Me diz como faz pra te ter mais..


Thought I’d also share this behind the scenes video that Flora’s friend DJ Naomi made while we were producing a song in a hotel room on a very unplanned Monday evening with Timbuktu and the band. Flora was warm, sweet and very charming, all with a little of that intriguing rapper edge.

Flora Matos, Erik Hjärpe et. al – Behind the scenes, recording “Amar e bem melhor do que ser dono”
Mozambique 2012

More photos & videos from that day, here. (opens in a new tab)

Immunizations spark curiosity

Chibuto, Gaza province, Mozambique
August 2012

Is 7-year-old Antonia afraid of what is going to happen? “No,” she replies confidently. She takes another look at the syringe, and adds a quiet, “a little.” The long line of children is a potpourri of feelings: curiosity, fear and courage accompanied by supportive shouts and some smiles. Little arms are held up, as the children prepare for their tetanus vaccine.

Cesar Pascoal Macitela is a health technician from the local hospital, and comes weekly to EPC 25 de Junho School in Chibuto district, Gaza province. “I like coming here to work with the children, they are sometimes afraid, sometimes happy, sometimes funny; you never really know in advance.” All the children look straight at the syringe when receiving the vaccine; today, curiosity trumps fear.

There is a young boy in line who looks very afraid, and when it is his turn to step forward, he refuses. The children behind him start pushing, but the boy has frozen and is close to tears. Mr. Macitela pretends not to take notice, and moves on to vaccinate the children behind him. “No, no, it’s okay, just let him wait, I will take him last,” he quietly tells the teacher trying to push the boy forward. “If he starts crying now we will have a real problem.” Mr. Macitela has done this for many years, and has learned that if one child starts crying, all of them might follow.

Dr. Yolanda Tedosio Mandlate accompanies Mr. Macitela to the school, to check on health standards. “We come weekly, to teach the children about oral health and personal hygiene. We vaccinate, make sure that the children wash their hands and evaluate the general standard of the surroundings. I just checked the sanitation facilities today, they are clean and there is running water.”

Last year, teachers at the school were trained in basic school health as a part of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative’s health programme. Leonora Jose Jovo, a Grade 4 teacher, took part in the training. “I learned how to identify the most common diseases and how to prevent and handle them. Now, I always remind my students about mosquito nets, about brushing their teeth and about washing their hands. Most importantly, I know when I have to send them to the hospital for professional attention,” she says.

Dr. Mandlate recalls, “Yes, we taught them a lot of things. One aspect that I think was very important, and new for many teachers, was how to identify mental health problems and make sure that children receive professional support. Children need understanding in order to solve their problems, and mental health issues are not a widely recognized condition here.”

Mr. Macitela continues, highlighting the importance of vaccines: “It is very important that they receive this protection in order to grow up and remain healthy.”

In November 2010, Mozambique proudly joined the group of countries that have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus. EPC 25 de Junho’s children are now also protected against the deadly disease, and need only two more injections in the coming months to complete the dose.

Published in the UNICEF Publication: Child-Friendly Schools – Stories from Mozambique & on the UNICEF Mozambique website
Photos & Text © UNICEF Mozambique/2012/Caroline Bach

You might have missed that it’s the “Vaccination Week in the Americas” (VWA) right now. During the week of 20-27th of April, the aim is for the countries in the region to strengthen their national immunization programs and reach out to populations with little or no access to regular health services. (So generally same thing we did in Mozambique during the “National Health Week” last year, see these photos!This is the eleventh year that VWA is celebrated, and according to the Pan American Health Organization and the WHO, more than 410 million individuals of all ages have been vaccinated during the campaign since it started. With this year’s efforts, and the slogan “Vaccination: a shared responsibility”, the initiative seeks to immunize 44 million people in 44 countries and territories against many different diseases.

Immunization initiative, Chibuto, Gaza district. Mozambique 2012

I often realize how much I enjoy and miss going to the field. The field missions I did to collect material for the Child-Friendly Schools booklet were all about talking to people and photographing, such a perfect set up! In the video above, the kids are standing in line for the vaccination, singing “Puxa mazambana puxa!” It was some kind of popular children’s song at that time that I also was forced to dance to on live TV when participating in a children’s programme. On a Sunday morning after a night of dancing. Just because somebody had invited me and thought I should participate and I had said “Sure!” One of many random and beautiful things that happened in 2012.

Wow, it’s almost May – I need to get this year started!

After the deadlines.

National Health Week in Mozambique, November 2012

Being entitled to Human Rights

Ana Paulino with her younger brother.

Changara, Tete province, Mozambique
August 2012

Every child has the right to participate in an inclusive and non discriminatory education. There are, however, places where prejudice and stigma still stand in the way of many students, sometimes, these customs are enforced by their own parents.

When 14-year-old Ana Paulino started school at EPC Armando Guebuza School, she did not expect to take part in many activities — especially not in gym class. “I was used to sitting in a corner and waiting until class was over. I was forbidden to touch the other children,” she explains.

Ana joined Grade 6 at EPC Armando Guebuza when she and her parents moved to Changara, Tete province, about a year ago. When her parents came to register her in school, they did not mention that she and one of her younger sisters suffer from albinism; they also did not know that the school was part of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative, which promotes inclusive education and the right of all children — especially girls, children with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children — to equitable education.

“When she started coming to school,” explains school Health Focal Point Frasia Joao Baptista, “we knew that we had to make her feel welcome and ensure that she participated in all activities.” In her previous school, Ana was not allowed to do sports, or anything else that would put her into close contact with other children. “They were afraid of me,” she recounts, “so the teacher always told me to sit away from the rest.”

Ana had gotten used to staying apart from other children, and Ms. Baptista had to convince her to participate. “I would find lighter activities for her that I knew she could handle; she needs to move like the other children, and be a part of the group!” The other children were initially afraid, or perhaps curious, as Ana started to take part in gym class. “I did not feel different once I started doing sports. I just felt like it was the normal thing to do,” Ana says, pointing out how natural it was for her to be a part of the group.

“Many of my classmates like me now, they are not afraid anymore,” she says with a glint in her eyes. Ana invites us to her home, where she lives with her parents and four siblings. She shows us the daily work she usually does: in the morning she goes to fetch water, and she shows us how she then mills and refines corn seeds. “She helps out a lot at home,” her father says. “Ana is a very good daughter.”

The other day, Ana’s father came to school to watch his daughter play sports. “We have realized that Ana can do almost everything. And she is good at playing football too!” he says proudly. Ana feels very much a part of her class now. A boy in the front row shouts, “Ana, come here!” Ana goes and sits next to him, ready for her teacher to start the lesson.

Published in the UNICEF Publication: Child-Friendly Schools – Stories from Mozambique & on the UNICEF Mozambique website
Photos & Text © UNICEF Mozambique/2012/Caroline Bach

Life for albinos in Mozambique is an ongoing struggle against discrimination, ridicule and many cultural challenges. Unlike in some other African countries, however, it isn’t life threatening, and it was very common to see albinos in the street, with common jobs and dancing in the nightclubs in Maputo. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of individuals suffering from albinism, and they said that generally, people are kind – and some even consider them to be good luck. When I showed my photos of Ana Paulino and her family to some Mozambican acquaintances, they exclaimed: “Wow, they got two albino girls, what a blessed family!

However, with eyes and skin extremely sensitive to sunlight, and difficulties in affording the expensive high-factor sunscreen and sunglasses for protection, life with albinism is anything but a blessing. Not to mention the skin cancer and many visual problems that these people have to endure.

Ana was a shy, but calm and happy, girl. She took care of her younger siblings with the maturity of an adult woman despite being only 14 years old, and spoke about her past as if being excluded from gym class had been as obvious and normal as the fact that she no longer wasn’t. It was never a big deal for her then, she said, she just simply wasn’t allowed to touch anybody or participate because she was different. Today, she can not imagine going back to the corner.

It was very interesting to hear her tell her own story, as we so often assume that people miss what they don’t have. In this case, even the intervention of her new teacher was met with reluctance. That’s right. Ana didn’t want to participate in gym class in the beginning. Because everybody was looking at her.

Which is what makes this case, and other cases like it, particularily important. People with disabilities, women in sexist societies, children living in contexts that don’t respect their right to an identity, protection, freedom or play.

People don’t always miss what they don’t have, instead, much too often – they convince themselves that they aren’t entitled to it.