Comics Workshop in Bihar - the fun way to serious messaging
By Aditya Malaviya
“We are not all laughter,” says Lakhindra Nayak, resource person for New Delhi based World Comics India. “But yes, there’s nothing like a laugh or a smile to make people accept your message,” he adds.
Lakhindra, who’s traveled from Jharkhand with his fellow colleague Danis D’Souza from Goa to Patna as part of the two-man resource team for the UNICEF workshop on comics, is full of bonhomie for his art. “Comics is now being accepted and understood as a communication tool, but there’s still miles to go before it becomes a popular tool in the communication process in India” he says.
UNICEF organized a three-day Comics workshop in partnership with World Comics India, Delhi, from March 6-9, 2009, at Hotel Country Club, Patna. The participants included youth working with the Link Workers scheme under the Lakshya Project on HIV/AIDS. Initially, 25 participants from the three districts of Muzaffarpur, Kishenganj and Vaishali were involved in the training.
UNICEF proposes to conduct a series of workshops across the state on training select youth and other volunteers in developing and using comics in routine messaging on issues of HIV, education, health, child protection and sanitation. Only this time, instead of posters and pamphlets, Comics - with their graphics, simplicity and in-the-face incisive messaging - will do all the ‘talking’!
“I wish we had another few days to learn more…the workshop seems to have ended very quickly.
The Comics workshop was a 4-day residential event, held from March 6-9 2009. Though the timing of the workshop was 09:00 am to 1700 hrs, there was provision to keep it flexible keeping the participants’ interest and demand for extra hours on some days.
Most participants were young men and women in the age group 22-25 years, open to learning new tools and techniques in visual communication and taking it forward after completion of the workshop in their own work areas. While everyone, irrespective of whether he or she could draw a straight line, was encouraged to participate in the workshop, those who already had exposure to some drawing skills or had been through fine art classes or training were especially encouraged to attend. Participants with good dialoguing and/or writing skills had an added advantage.
Says Raghubir Kumar Das from Muzaffarpur “I never knew Comics could be so exciting. I came with the notion that it was some art class we were being made to attend!”.
Says Neetu Kumari from Vaishali “I was very confused - why should someone of my age learn comics? I had no idea it was a communications tool. Now I will go back and do something in my field. I want people to know I have a new tool in hand for communication on HIV-AIDS”.
“Initially, most participants feel let down-they are confused, and there are participants who are even angry for having been nominated by their organization for such childish work. It’s when they actually go through the technical sessions that they realize that comics are not the cake-walk they thought them to be. That’s when the real excitement begins, and you can feel the difference in the energy levels around you!” says Danis D’Souza.
Says Md. Moktar Ali from Vaishali, “I wish we had another few days to learn more…the workshop seems to have ended very quickly. But I am happy we have learnt something we had always seen as children but never dreamt we would be making our own in four days!”. The excitement on Mokhtar’s face was a reflection of the excitement all around and was testament enough that at least this message had gone home seriously!
Link Worker Scheme
The Link Worker Scheme envisions a new cadre of worker, the Link Worker, to be introduced at the village level. Link Workers will be motivated, community level, paid female and male youth workers with a minimum level of education. A Link Worker is someone who is not “alien” to the neighbourhood, is accepted by the village community, and who can discuss intimate human relations and practices of sex and sexuality and help equip high-risk
The Link Workers will cover highly vulnerable villages in Districts selected through mapping exercises, using criteria such as size of the population, number of sex workers residing and practicing sex work in the village and number of PLWHA in the village. They will work in each cluster of villages around a 5,000+ population village which will serve as the node for this subgroup intervention. They will be supported in their work by village-level volunteers selected from the available groups in the community.