Communication for Development (C4D)

Social mobilization

© UNICEF/BRDA2012-00027/Pawel Krzysiek
Burundi: A group of "Light Mothers" meet in a Positive Deviance site in the commune of Matongo. Positive Deviance is a community-led package of nutrition, health and hygiene interventions to improve children's well-being.

Social mobilization in UNICEF is a process that engages and motivates a wide range of partners and allies at national and local levels to raise awareness of and demand for a particular development objective through face-to-face dialogue. Members of institutions, community networks, civic and religious groups and others work in a coordinated way to reach specific groups of people for dialogue with planned messages. In other words, social mobilization seeks to facilitate change through a range of players engaged in interrelated and complementary efforts.

For instance in Madagascar, community health workers received UNICEF training in interpersonal communication. With on-going socio-economic crises impacting the available health services, the community health workers provide crucial coverage. The health workers conduct essential outreach to families on issues such as proper hand washing, not defecating in the open and vaccinating children. Many of the health workers are also parents from the local community, lending additional legitimacy to their message. 

Using kites and GPS cameras, Brazilian adolescents have mapped their favelas’ socio-environmental risks and develop methods to use the data in order to improve the lives of children and families in their communities. The adolescents used the resulting information to mobilize the Morro dos Prazeres community to clean accumulated garbage in high-risk areas, helping to prevent landslides and a variety of health hazards. They also successfully advocated for the repair of the UGA-UGA Bridge.

In Bangladesh, more than 10,000 community hygiene promoters are working in villages under the SHEWAB (Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water Supply) programme to promote better hygiene practices and the importance of safe sanitation and water, as well as tackle taboo issues such as menstrual hygiene. Community volunteers, traditional leaders and elected officials work together to reduce child marriage in both Niger and Ethiopia.

The Community Information Board (CIB) in Nigeria is an innovative mechanism that helps communities track the health and well-being of their children and women and empowers them to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. A simple board is used to display basic social and development data that communities use to track the health and well-being of their children and to drive community dialogues, collective decision-making and communal action to realize the rights of children and women.

A total of 138 communities in 21 states now regularly update their Community Information Boards and use information from the Board in their dialogue sessions, action planning and implementation of agreed corrective or reinforcing actions.

© Martin Verzilli/InSTEDD
Haiti: Adolescent mappers collect preliminary data using mobile phones to map locations of identified risks related to HIV and AIDS.

In Haiti, 24 adolescents from the low-income communities of Cité Plus and Village de Dieu are engaged in a mapping initiative in two Port-au-Prince communities that is intended to reveal the obstacles that keep vulnerable adolescents – particularly girls – from gaining access to HIV prevention services. The adolescents learned about HIV risks, modes of transmission and prevention methods, and received instruction in the UNICEF-GIS innovative digital mapping platform developed by UNICEF, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD). 

The adolescents were also trained in the use of mobile phones to collect data. They then mapped geographic locations for each identified risk related to HIV and AIDS.  The data collection process is expected to take three months, culminating in the production of a digital map for distribution to local authorities. Officials will use that information to improve access to, and uptake and quality of, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents.

In Guatemala where the mostly indigenous population suffers from high levels of poverty, women and children often live with poor health and chronic malnutrition. In the lakeside village of San Pablo La Laguna in Sololá, a women’s advancement organization called Creciendo Bien (Growing Well) holds monthly workshops teaching women to improve their own lives and communities.

The confidence that women in San Pablo La Laguna are gaining gives them the strength to change their lives for the better. It gives them hope for a better future for generations to come. “We have encountered women who had very low self-esteem, maybe because of various problems in their homes,” says Ms. Romero, a community volunteer. “We talk with them about the importance of loving yourself.”



Children as agents of change

The Benefits of a Child-Centered Approach to Climate Change
UNICEF UK and Plan International - 2011

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