Communicating for Change : UNICEF helps get the message across in Azerbaijan
By Suzanna Dayne
The workshop is part of UNICEF’s efforts to introduce its new strategy, C4D, Communication for Development. C4D is a comprehensive method that uses a mix of communication tools to improve the lives of children around the world. “In the past posters and leaflets were the focus for most communication campaigns. The new method is much more inclusive and includes working with communities and involving children, parents and governments”, said Elnur Aliyev, UNICEF’s C4D officer in Azerbaijan.
In the workshop participants focused on three key issues: anemia, the impact of early marriage on young girls and children with disabilities. In Azerbaijan, about half of all pregnant and lactating women are anemic and few understand how anemia can threaten a mother’s life. While girls in many parts of the country are forced to drop out and marry after attending primary school. Few realize that pregnancy at such a young age can lead to serious complications. The last issue, focused on children with disabilities. In Azerbaijan society stigma against these children still exists. Many are kept at home and deprived of a chance to be well educated and contribute to their communities.
The participants were given background information on the problems and encouraged to look outside the traditional communication methods to solve them. They learned how to create messages that can raise awareness and change the way people perceive these issues and eventually change their behaviors. They also worked on how to target those messages to different groups.
“Disabled children need support not only from their own families, but from teachers and principles to ensure their enrollment and from local municipalities to help transport these children to and from school,” said Elnur Kalantarov, Head of the Public Information and Media Department, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. “They also need to be supported so they don’t feel embarrassed about their disability in anyway,” he added.
At the end of the program, the participants presented their ideas. These included organizing town hall meetings and debates in the community to raise awareness of the issue and a creative public service announcement, PSA, dubbed “Am I Ready?” depicting what could happen to a girl who marries too early.
“I now realize that when we use the word communicate, we are referring not only to the words one uses to transfer factual information to others, but also to other "messages" that are sent and received. One of the main advantages of this workshop was that it was based on not only to theory but also to practice,” said NaiIa Miraliyeva, Acting Chief of the Health Communication and Public Relations Department Public Health and Reforms Center.
“I really liked the group work, we practiced how to say the right thing at the right time, how to make sure others understand what we are saying and how to choose the most effective channel of communication,” she added.
Now, the next step is to develop these ideas so they become a reality and help children and families throughout this rapidly changing country.