At their first meeting, the group of 30 young women just eyed Nousa Winica warily. When she asked a question, they hurriedly dropped their gaze. It would be, she quickly realized, a struggle to earn their trust.
Winica spent the first few of their weekly gatherings sticking to light subjects – what chores they did, their favorite classes, even the weather – just to make the girls, pooled from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, comfortable sharing with her and with each other. Eventually, she started peppering the conversation with questions about HIV. What did they know about the disease? Could they explain how it was spread? What steps could they take to avoid getting infected?
After weeks of dragging answers out of them to the most banal questions, she was shocked at their interest in the topic. “They receive it with some kind of happiness,” she said. “Most of them have someone at home in the family who is sick. They have some questions about the disease.”