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Communicating for Social Change Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by venkat, India Sep 3, 2007
Health , Peace & Conflict , Civil Society   Short Stories
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Sixty years after independence, India's tryst with destiny continues. Impressive economic indicators of progress are tempered with the concerns for equity in human development. A high rate of GDP growth sits uncomfortably with a literacy rate of 65%. With 296 million illiterates aged seven years and above, the country has the largest segment of the world's illiterates. The state of the children, the future of the country, is an area of grave concern. Out of every 1000 children, 63 do not live till their first year. Amongst those who survive, 47% in the age group of 0-5 are malnourished.

In addition, with 5.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the epidemic presents a new set of developmental challenges for the nation. The situation in Medak district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which has been selected by the Government and UNICEF for full convergence of sectoral programmes, reflects the national scenario. In this district, Human development has suffered a setback with consecutive drought years and resulting livelihood crises and distress migration. Poverty has further exacerbated the vulnerability of women and children as reflected in low literacy level and high Infant Mortality Rate.

While the picture is grim, there are opportunities to turn around. There are steps, small but critical, that bridge the gap between possibilities and capabilities. Effective communication is one such as Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) addresses knowledge, attitudes and practices to influence individual behaviour, as well as those social factors which have an influence on behaviour.

Knowing that behaviour change takes place when individuals/families receive information, internalize/analyze it, weigh the consequences and then take action to change, the communication effort will addresses the primary audience (whose behaviour change is intended) and secondary participants (who would support/reinforce the change) through an array of channels.

Communicating about developmental issues to the individuals, families and communities is critical to help vulnerable children survive, to support girls attain education and to equip young people to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

Government of India and UNICEF have articulated four key behavioural results to empower families and communities with appropriate knowledge and skills to improve the care and protection of children. These are:

1. Mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of giving birth and practice exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of the baby's life;

2. Parents enrol their girls in Class 1 when they reach the age of five and ensure they complete primary education;

3. Sexually active young people already engaged in risk behaviours adequately protect themselves;

4. Care-givers and children wash their hands after defecation and before handling food.

Recognizing the centrality of communication of attaining these results, the district Administration of Medak has initiated a unique action of setting up a Behavior Change Communication Cell (BCC) under its aegis.

The Change Makers

1000 SHG leaders
1000 Youth Group members
1600 Women Health Volunteers
120 BCC Master Trainers in
28 mandals of Medak

Communicate to

• promote changes in mindsets and behaviour at the household level;
• mobilize wider networks of support around families;
• promote broader social change so that families have a supportive environment in which to improve the care and protection of children.

The cell is mandated to equip families and communities with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to improve the state of the children. The cell will accelerate communication activities to reach the most disadvantaged populations, especially poor families.

The communication activities will be centered on the three approaches for reaching families - communication that reaches families and communities directly, community dialogue and social mobilization.

The BCC cell will:

• Promote behavior change by SHGs, youth groups, Village health workers and village volunteers through community meetings and house-to-house visits;

• Information empowerment of the CBOs and grassroot functionaries in interpersonal communication;

• Develop integrated Information Education Communication (IEC) plans in the district in coordination with different line departments;

• Motivate and increase sense of ownership amongst all stakeholders involved in the project for successful implementation of the project;

• Provide strategic direction, technical support and leadership in overall management and implementation of BCC project;

• Coordinate, manage and monitor program resources/implementation to ensure accountability, synergy and results.

The Partners in Change

Department of health and family welfare (DHMO)
District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA)
Nehru Yuvaka Kendra (NYK)
Medvan NGO Network

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