Ingomai is a small village about 22 kilometers from the main administrative post of Gondola District in Manica Province. One resident, Maria Fulai, has a unique and influential role within the Ingomai community. She is considered queen of her village. Community leaders, or “régulos” as they are called in Mozambique, are very common and highly regarded figures. However, most régulos are men. Queen Maria, a 65 year-old widow and grandmother of 11, is a rare and inspiring exception to this cultural rule.
Community health workers supported by the Strengthening High Impact Interventions for an AIDS-Free Generation (AIDSFree) Project and the Health Communications Capacity Collaborative (HC3) approached Maria to discuss services for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and VMMC’s impact and benefits. Maria was especially intrigued to know that, beyond reducing HIV transmission rates, VMMC also protects women from contracting sexually transmitted infections that can cause cervical cancer. This struck a chord, because one of her good friends, a fellow community health activist, suffers from cervical cancer. She jumped at the opportunity to help spread the word.
The mark of the Mozambican is to be circumcised, because in the future, he who has not been circumcised will not be considered Mozambican.
-Queen Maria Fulai
Maria joined AIDSFree’s campaign to mobilize community members to learn more about VMMC services. She spoke to nearly 600 people about the impact of circumcision on public health, and helped bring in nearly 200 community members from surrounding areas to receive VMMC services at the Ingomai and Mueziuagara health centers.
Despite this success, Maria understands the challenges of promoting VMMC services in her village. She said, “We must recognize that we have a great cultural challenge to overcome, as circumcision is not a common practice in our community, but I believe that if we explain to communities about the great health benefits of circumcision, they will join us.”