2000 SOM: Report of Qualitative Research on the Communication Channels in Use in Somalia
Author: Kaphle, S.R.
Almost half a decade has been passed since UNICEF Somalia has extensively expanded its program from emergency support to sustainable quality improvements in the life of women and children of Somalia. Various studies (e.g., KAP study and MICS) conducted in the past have indicated that no significant changes and improvements have occurred despite the considerable interventions aimed at improving public health, education, water and sanitation. The studies have indicated problems related with knowledge, attitude, and practices revealing the existence of misperceptions and wrong beliefs, and harmful practices. Further, the studies have made it clear that the elimination of misperceptions, wrong beliefs, and harmful practices is necessary for positive changes in the society. In so doing, it is important to reach different groups with appropriate information and messages through various channels of communications. As a result, an assessment of the existing channels, access of different population groups to such channels, and identification of the correct channels to reach the different population groups was necessary.
Purpose / Objective
The purpose of the study was to identify the most appropriate and specific channels to be used as the main channel to disseminate appropriate and proper messages and information. It also seeks to assess the impact of the information, with a view to enable parents, households, and community to work together to improve the quality of life.
Specific objectives of the study:
- To identify and to prepare an inventory of the existing and most commonly used communication channels in Somalia
- To assess the understanding of the audiences/ target groups and their rating of the existing channels in terms of content of the messages/information disseminated, popularity, and trust
- To assess the impact of the messages/ information in the daily life of the audience/ target groups
- To assess the accessibility of existing communication channels to the target group of population
- To identify the constraints of the target groups to use/access the existing communication channels
- To make recommendations for the use of appropriate communication channels and the regional communication disparities to be addressed in communication strategies
The study was guided by qualitative research technique and focused on the exploration of insiders' views/opinions and collection of information from multiple sources. The study not only assessed the existing channels of communications in Somalia, but also assessed the preferred channels of the different target groups to receive information on various issues like health and hygiene, reproductive health, circumcision, immunization, water, education, and rights.
The study is nationally represented, including the urban, rural, and nomadic settlements of the population. In all three zones of Somalia, a total of 870 persons from five targeted groups participated in the focus group discussions. Across the country, 175 elderly women, 178 adult women, 173 youth girls, 182 youth boys, and 161 males were contacted in the focus group discussions.
Key informant interviews further supported the variation of information sources for the study. The group of the key informants comprised community leaders, religious leaders, NGOs, CBOs, and mass communication media. Equal representation of women as key informants was maintained while identifying the key informants in all population groupings. Across the country, 20 community leaders, 20 religious leaders, 20 video parlors, five local radios, 20 local NGOs/CBOs, and seven local newspapers were contacted and interviewed.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The study has revealed that disseminated information has succeeded to increase the level of knowledge and awareness, but the awareness has not been reflected in the practice. The findings suggest two main reasons:
- Belief of the people that the knowledge they have is enough, so do not need any further information.
- Incapacity of the people to use the acquired knowledge. For instance, people are aware that both the girls and boys have equal right to education, but it is not reflected in an increase in girls' education because of the distance and environment of the existing schools. Similarly, in the case of potable water, almost all target groups have expressed their knowledge regarding how water could/should be purified but a negligible number of people are using the knowledge they have because of unaffordable water purifying substances. Empowerment and capacity building of the people are equally important, enabling them to implement their awareness in the practice. Empowerment is not limited to the economic aspect only, but also covers the cultural, social, and political aspects.
Rating of the existing channels:
Across the country, radio is the most popular and commonly used channel whether or not it has been the first choice of the target groups. It is the most affordable and accessible channel in use. Disparity in choices of preferred channels is high among the target groups of different population settings (urban, rural, and nomadic) compared to the disparity between the zones. Among the female population, interpersonal channels are more popular. Traditional channels of art forms are losing their popularity. Religious institutions (mosque, religious leader, and gatherings) have an important role in disseminating information across the country.
Health and Hygiene:
Malaria, diarrhea, TB, anemia, malnutrition and measles are the most common illness in all settlements. Most of the target groups in all population groupings are aware/informed about the common illness of their community, its causes, and prevention. Furthermore, youths (both boys and girls) are more informed/aware about the causes and prevention of common illness than their elders and the mothers.
Despite adequate information on prevention, the diseases are rampant. To be informed about the disease is not enough to bring changes in health practices and behavior. Accessibility, affordability, and physical presence of health services have direct impact on health practice and behavior; and are major causes of non-implementation of the knowledge the people have. For instance, to control malaria people should be able to buy mosquito nets, medicine, and insecticides.
Radio, mobile microphone, health centers, and the religious leader are commonly preferred channels by all target groups. However, in rural and nomadic areas, experienced fellow persons for adult groups, and parents for young groups, have important role in providing firsthand information needed. Specially, in the rural and the nomadic settlements, religious healers and traditional healers have a large role and are in need of reliable information on health.
Target groups in all population groupings are generally aware of the importance of immunization. Still, people are in need of specific information about the types of the vaccines covering the benefits, immediate side effects and the dangers a person could face if not immunized. Women target groups from the rural and the nomadic areas have reservations and misperceptions on immunization.
Radio, mobile microphone, health center and the religious leaders have equal preference of the target groups to receive information on vaccination. Specially in the rural and the nomadic areas, traditional channels like religious leader, community meetings, Quranic School, and teashop have a specific role to convince people.
The rural and the nomadic women are less informed about reproductive health than urban women are. There is a general lack of adequate pre- and post-natal care.
Varieties of modern and traditional channels like radio, mobile microphone, MCH, doctor, religious leaders, mosque, mother, and teashop etc., are preferred by the different target groups. However, only those channels in easy access and confidence would be contacted to seek advice needed. Men are the ultimate sources of advice and women would follow their advice, indicating the enormous dependence of women and the limitation of their access to available health services. Use of health service depends how the man of the family perceives it.
Despite high number of people in all target groups who have heard about HIV/AIDS, people are in need of detail, educational and awareness raising information on HIV/AIDS covering its reasons, causes, symptoms, prevention, management of infected person, etc. None of the study groups reported having knowledge on prevention, symptoms, and management of the infected person.
In the rural and the nomadic areas, interpersonal channels are more used than one-way, information-disseminating channels since the rural and the nomadic people have less access to printed educational information. Consequently, people have to rely on person-to-person information sharing, providing chances of misinformation.
The focus of disseminated awareness information is basically on health impacts on girls and women, as they are the victims of the age-old practice; however, the effect on family life and other implications of the practice have been overshadowed.
A major change brought by information disseminated is shifting the traditional practice to the Sunni circumcision but has not convinced people on total eradication. Target groups are receiving information from the religious institutions that the Sunni circumcision is good because it does not have health problems, it is allowed by religion and should be continued. Consequently, in awareness information, whatever is disseminated has created an environment of confusion.
Young girls in all population groupings rely more on their mothers for receiving information on FGM than any other channel, indicating the decisive roles of mothers and grandmothers on FGM, and having a direct link as the information channel. Further, notwithstanding the realization of the complications and pain, young girls are not in a position to deny the practice. Men and women of all age groups are in consensus that total eradication is not possible; only few adult women and youths have agreed on total eradication. Religious leaders, mosque, and radio are the commonly-preferred channels to receive information on FGM, in all population settings.
Men and women of all age groups are aware of the importance of education and have a positive view on providing equal education opportunity for girls. Despite the unanimous acceptance of girls' education, this positive attitude does not correlate with the existing high dropout rate and low female literacy rate of Somalia. Information encouraging adult education is needed in all population settings.
Most of the video parlors interviewed as key informants have expressed their willingness to include educational videos in their shows. Awareness raising information is reaching the people; however, to achieve remarkable change, physical facilities are equally important and need to be enhanced, specially, in the rural and the nomadic areas.
Water and Sanitation:
All target groups are more or less aware of the differences and consequences of safe and unsafe water for drinking and cooking. Most of the target groups are not implementing the knowledge they have, but some of them casually implement the information depending on the availability of water and outbreak of diseases.
Radio, mobile microphone, health center/worker and religious leader are the commonly preferred channels to receive water-related information across the country and target groups. In the NW teashop where men gather to chew chat has acquired importance, as one of the channels to receive information.
Perception of human rights is not very clear among the target groups. Only some of the urban and very few of the rural target groups are aware of basic rights in all zones. The nomadic population has a negligible concept of rights. Most of the women target groups in all zones are not aware of their rights. Most of the interviewees held the view that women are not made equal by the religion and are eligible for only those rights that are allowed and accepted by the religion. Furthermore, to look for equality and equal rights for women is contradicting with the religion.
Religion and the religious leaders are the basic sources of information on rights issues. Islamic teachings and instructions on rights and duties of men and women are the foundation for the conceptualization of rights. Almost all of the target groups preferred radio, religious leader, mosque, and awareness raising meeting to receive information on rights issues.
Female targets should be reached intensively through interpersonal channels.
Men should be targeted adequately with appropriate information, as they are one of the major sources of information for the family in the rural and the nomadic areas.
Traditional channels of art forms need overall support and strengthening because they have built-in acceptance of the society and still could play a major role for information dissemination in the rural and the nomadic areas.
Information on total eradication of FGM needs to be emphasized while discussing about the problems and impacts of FGM. Mobilization of religious institutions should be enhanced with strengthened capacity on religious and cultural arguments of circumcision. Coordinated package of information and messages should be developed in order to mitigate the confusing and contradicting stories on types of circumcision.
Awareness raising information needs to be enhanced across the country, highlighting the compatibility of universal human rights and the Islamic protection, wherever possible. The religious institutions and the community leaders should be strengthened with capacity and information on rights and mobilized for awareness raising on rights. As the religious leaders have a major role in dispute settlements related to family matters, their understanding of basic principles of human rights can play an effective role in the realization of women and children's rights.
Mass media should be adequately used for awareness raising and advocating human rights.
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