Engaging With The Community

Communities, not individuals or independent organisations, build successful and sustainable sport programmes. Perhaps the single most critical factor in designing a sport programme for girls is identifying who has a stake in it and earning their support. Partnership building is an ongoing, pivotal process throughout the life of a programme. When addressing a sensitive and contentious issue, such as sexuality, there is an increased emphasis on getting community support early and often.

Community mobilisation and informed participation has enormous potential for creating legitimacy and a supportive environment for meeting the SRHR needs of adolescent girls. If these groups are well trained they can help to reach a common goal of promoting the adolescent girls’ SRHR. However, when community members are left out of the process or in a place of conflict, girls often suffer while living in two worlds – one in sport and one in the community.

In this section, we will outline various approaches to working with different segments of a community, including parents/caregivers, boys, community men, religious and cultural leaders as well as husbands.

Tips: Creating Community Buy-in

  • Organisations are advised to ensure that community norms, values, and traditions are identified and, as appropriate, incorporated into the issues, examples, and priorities of SRHR content.
  • Build activities and messages around important values that support good decision-making and healthy behaviour.
  • Identify from among those values and traditions which views might constitute barriers to effective education on SRHR and develop a strategy to address them.

Useful Example – Sharing Baseline Results with Community Members
DISHA, a sexual and reproductive programme implemented in India by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), wanted to understand and address the fact that youth behaviour and options reflect their socio-cultural and economic context. As a result, interventions were aimed to transform the local context in ways that enhanced the reproductive health and life options of young people. To engage adults in the youth-focused initiative, partners held community meetings and shared the results of the baseline and needs assessment activities, which was particularly powerful in garnering adult support for youth reproductive health and related concerns. This engagement of key adults yielded increased support for the proposed interventions.

Useful Example – Vijani Amani Pamoja
Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP) is an organisation based in Kenya formed in 2000 with the vision of imparting important life and social values to the youth from Nairobi's slums through the power of football. VAP works in areas of Nairobi that have some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infected and affected youth. Many of the youth come from families living in extreme poverty that may have lost one or both parents to the disease.

In addition to the sport and life skills sessions they provide, VAP organises yearly tournaments in conjunction with Nairobi Women’s Hospital, which also runs the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC). One such tournament focuses on ‘Early or/and Forced Marriages’ in which they encourage girls to participate in sports as well as address issues about early pregnancy.

Useful Example – Fighting Harmful Customary Practices (HCP)
KMG-Ethiopia is an indigenous community-based organisation founded in 1997 by Bogaltech and Fikrte Geber, with the aim of helping to create an environment where the values and rights of women are recognised. KMG created a ‘Community Conversations’ programme, where one male and one female facilitator gather together 25 males and 25 females to discuss HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; human rights, democracy, and good governance; and uncut girls. Malule Lea, a nurse from the Wugulla district describes the impact of the programme:

“Before the beginning of the project in my district, the prevalence of female genital mutilation was extremely predominant but it was a taboo issue. Many circumcised women die due to delivery complications every year in our district. No one gave any attention to the issue or recognised female genital cutting as a health matter. Domestic violence frequently took place. The dialogue conducted every fifteen days through community conversations facilitated changes and reduced the incidence of female genital cutting and other harmful practices. Penalties set by community conversation participants for each identified harmful customary practice became the back-bone in sustaining the change progress. So, I would like to thank KMG for every new phenomenon and change occurring in the district as a result of community conversations.”

The process, ‘Community Conversations,’ is one of UNDP’s core contributions to the HIV/AIDS response. It is a powerful methodology, involving trained local facilitators, who facilitate a process of developing the capacities of communities and the organisations working with them to effectively respond to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic.

For more information on the concept of ‘Community Conversations’ see – Upscaling Community Conversations in Ethiopia.

For an excellent resource on how to mobilise communities in relation to HIV/AIDS see ‘Go Communities! A Manual for Mobilising Communities to Take Action to Reduce Girls’ Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.’ The manual aims to strengthen the skills of mobilisers and community facilitators to motivate communities around reducing girls’ vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Boys And Men

Women Win believes that well-designed sport programmes for boys/men or mixed groups have the potential to build more supportive/safe relationships. Sport is very appealing to...

Parents And Caregivers

Parents and caregivers have vastly varying degrees of comfort with the concept of discussing SRHR with their adolescent daughters. To some, these conversations are best left in...

Religious And Cultural Leaders

The majority of world religions take positions on sexuality based on morality. At times, these positions can strengthen a girl’s life skills and information base. At other times...