“A work mi a work fi my money enno! You see this?” he asked in reference to the old wind shield wiper he was gripping in his hand, “It better than even work! Cause when you a work, you haffi wait pon a pay day. Everyday me get pay when me have this inna mi han’!” 16 year old Kemar declared as he sat on the concrete median that divides the busy dual roadway at Portia Simpson Miller Square in Kingston, Jamaica.
Holding the tattered windshield wiper tightly he looked intently into the camera, his tone firm and defiant. “Yuh see how this old!? Mi naah dash it whey! It can make me earn one million dollar before the week done a juss me fi save the money!” he continued.
His loose hair processed and shaved at the hairline. The hardened youth from the tough innercity community of Tivoli Gardens in Western Kingston spoke with the authority of someone who has seen and experienced too much at such a tender age.
Kemar is one of several young boys who were interviewed by CVM Television’s anchor and journalist, Kalilah Enriquez during a three-month media fellowship which examined the issue of HIV and Human Rights and focused on the streets boys and their vulnerability to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Seventeen year-old Jason, another street boy, confessed that he has lived on the streets for the past years. In a matter of fact tone he explained how he spends his nights.
“From mi a bout six or five mi deh pon di street, cause mi a run whey, run whey from mi modda. Most time mi sleep ova the cemetery or more while me sleep pon the tough floor or mi juss buy a one weed and gwaan buil’ or bleach it out till a morning or mi go some dance or something ’till it ova and inna the morning mi still touch road again,” he continued.
For three months (February – April 2011) Kalilah stepped outside her comfort zone and explored the challenges and experiences of Jamaican street boys on the streets of Kingston.
Accompanied by her cameraman and another journalist; photographer and Communications Specialist; Delroy Whytehall, Kalilah sat on the steps of abandoned buildings and sidewalks in Half-Way-Tree Square, dodged traffic at the busy Portia Simpson-Miller Square (Three Miles) and listened to the stories shared haltingly from the lips of boys and young men, some of whom have lived on the streets for more than 10 years.
Delroy and Kalilah are two of four Jamaican journalists who recently concluded four three-month media fellowships awarded by Panos Caribbean and funded by Panos Global AIDS Programme.
“You have to understand, boy’s that age who have been through what they have been through; it is NOT easy to get them to open up and speak,” Kalilah explained in the early stages of the media fellowship as she struggled to piece their stories together to form two coherent media productions for television that would be at once compelling, engaging and a true reflection of the situations the vulnerable young boys face as they ‘hustle’ to earn a living wiping windows and selling small items and fruits at the city’s busy intersections.
“I would ask them questions and would get one word answers. I just had to keep probing. It took a lot of patience. In the end, I wound up speaking to several of them. I heard stories of abuse and neglect and circumstances which indicates definite risk factors and vulnerability to HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections,” she continued.
The boys admitted to engaging in sex at an early age and of having multiple sex partners. They also admitted to being educated about sex and contraceptives informally by overhearing adults talking about it and observing their behaviour.
Only one admitted to ever being tested for HIV even though they all admitted to being aware of the virus and the dangers of unprotected sex. They disclosed the inaccurate perception that they can tell if a female is HIV positive or negative by looking at her. One of them said he felt that very young girls were more likely to be HIV negative while older women whom he avoided, were more likely to be HIV positive.
To their credit, all the boys had fiery ambitions to first be self sufficient before fathering children and one of them indicated that he wants to have a career instead of becoming a criminal or a gun man.
After three months of hard work by Kalilah and her production team at CVM, two brilliant videos emerged which have been evoking significant reactions from persons linked to Panos Caribbean’s Facebook page where the videos were shared in late May and early June 2011.
The two videos produced under the fellowship will be broadcast on CVM TV during the programme: LIVE AT SEVEN Wednesday evening, June 22nd at 7pm and Thursday, 23rd at the same time. Kalilah will share her personal experience of meeting, gaining the trust of the young men and interacting with them.
The videos will be aired on CVM Television during the prime time broadcast of the current affairs discussion programme: LIVE at 7, just before the nightly 8pm news this Wednesday and Thursday (June 22 & 23, 2011).
Join Kalilah and the LIVE at 7 team as Kalilah shares her personal experiences of meeting the young men, visiting their inner city communities and talking with some of their parents and guardians as well as some government officials about what is being done to assist the boys and what more needs to be done to decrease their vulnerability to contracting HIV and other STIs.
The two videos: