This post originally appeared in Pathfinder’s Field Journal and can be accessed here. Written by Antonio Massuque, March 2011.

In Mozambique, young people between the ages of 10 and 24 make up one-third of the population. Of all new cases of HIV in the country, 60% are among youth (15-24). Girls and women are especially vulnerable and are being infected three times more frequently than men. In this challenging climate, the leadership of young people is critical to reversing these statistics and building a better tomorrow for Mozambique. The following story highlights one of these young leaders, who took initiative through the Pathfinder-supported Geração Biz program to become a dynamic peer educator for his fellow youth.

My name is Antonio Maria Jorge Massuque. Since I was 19, I’ve been involved in youth and adolescent development in my country, Mozambique.

My passion for social work was born while I was a student at Malhaizine’s Secondary School, located in the suburbs of Maputo. There, a teacher of mine invited me to join a group of ten students to receive training in ethics and civics. In that group, I discovered my love for counseling others. I relished the opportunity to listen to other young people and direct them to the services and institutions that could address their needs. Unfortunately, by the end of the year, I had to change schools and leave the program. But the experience opened my eyes to the importance of caring for and supporting other youth.

Soon after, I was accepted into a graduate school for journalism. There, I found another opportunity to continue counseling when I met the Geração Biz program coordinator for Pathfinder International. Geração Biz supports the training of peer educators, the development of youth-friendly services, and the establishment of school-based sexual and reproductive health interventions throughout the country. Pathfinder’s program coordinator welcomed me into the project with open arms, asking me to apply the Geração Biz model to educate young people in sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS. Together, we trained 30 students, teaching them to facilitate discussions at their schools and other community spaces. Today, Geracao Biz is a national program that the Mozambican government has scaled up to reach more than 3.6 million adolescents every year.

My work with Geração Biz opened up many opportunities for me and allowed me to grow as a leader. I currently manage the Geração Biz Web site, lead the African AfrYAN (a network for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and young people of Africa), and even run a popular radio show on Radio Mozambique. The show runs for an hour, twice a week and focuses on youth and their reproductive health issues. Like much of what I do, the goal of the radio program is to promote discussion and encourage young people to protect their health.

In 2007, my colleagues elected me to be the leader of a new movement called Youth Action Motion. There, I connected with experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health, improving my ability to analyze critical issues, like the need to increase access to services, among other important topics. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned and share it with other young people.

Now, I’m 28 years old and studying communications sciences at the University Polytechnic on a scholarship from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). When I look back at my life so far, I realize how Geração Biz and my experiences mentoring others played a crucial role in my development. It has become such an integral part of who I am that I think it’s impossible to describe me without mentioning Geração Biz.

Even today, I still act as a counselor for youth. It’s hard not to. I’ve done it for so long that adolescents and young people in my country consider me an expert on matters related to sexual and reproductive health.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.