Community mobilisers who reach out to families in the districts of Uttar Pradesh and are using Facts for Life – titled Jeevan ke Sandesh in Hindi – to communicate on a wide range of health issues
The Facts for Life Communication initiative was launched when social mobilisers working in the polio-endemic districts of Uttar Pradesh expressed the need to reach out to people with messages on a wide range of health issues. This was particularly needed since communities had a number of health and development issues. Safiya Ahmed, the Underserved Co-ordinator with the Social Mobilisation Network (SMNet) for the polio eradication programme, works in Aligarh district in the polio-endemic area of western Uttar Pradesh. Safiya is looking forward to April 7 – the day when Kyunki Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai premieres on Dooardarshan One channel. She spoke to Anupam Srivastava about working with communities and how Facts for Life Communication initiative and Kyunki Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai are set to help people change behaviour around health.
What has been your experience as you go to people with messages on polio?
Communication always requires innovation at the level of the communicator. The simplest of messages needs to be understood, given a local context or meaning as it is expressed. Also, most field persons realise that when we approach people with a specific message to have a discussion, the discussion is likely to extend to other areas of health and hygiene.
What does that entail for the communicator?
The communicator needs to be aware of a range of issues and be ready to take the discussion to subjects which the people are interested in. If one does that, the community is more receptive and even the “original” messages – let’s say polio – are accepted better. For instance, a few years ago when I gauged the interest of women in hygiene and sanitation, I pulled out information from religious texts and showed that the most sacred texts lay emphasis on these. Our discussions would therefore not stay confined to one subject or two and I had to prepare well. In other communication activities, I sometimes built messages into a song. We did, however, feel that we needed to know more about other health issues too.
Did most community mobilisers feel this need?
Yes. We informed visiting officers from UNICEF and our supervisors about the need to have a communication strategy that addresses other issues of the community as well.
Now that the Facts for Life Communication initiative is already beginning to be used in the field, how do you feel?
It is very useful to us. Earlier the CMC would dig out information on her own and perhaps not get the best results. Also, different CMCs might have had varying facts on the same issue. A communication package therefore comes in very handy and brings everyone on par. It will help us immensely. The Hindi version of Facts for Life titled Jeevan ke Sandesh is already in use in the field and with excellent results.
What do you think of the television programme Kyunki Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai that follows the entertain-education format?
I am looking forward to it. It will add to our communication effort to make a difference to people’s well-being. I am a believer in the power of entertainment when it is used for education. The polio team here has often lodged messages in popular songs and dialogues and with great effect. My own experience tells me that even a conversation one has with people needs to be interesting. When it is communication with a purpose, entertainment will take the message further and deeper into the hearts of people.