Engaging Community Organizations
Strengthening the Capacity of Malawian Community-Based Organizations for HIV Prevention through Community Mobilization
BRIDGE II worked with Community Based Organizations (CBOs), legal entities, registered by District Councils, which implement social development programs in their communities. Membership in CBOs is voluntary and each CBO has four main technical sub-committees, including a Behavior Change Intervention Sub-Technical Committee (BCI-STC) which oversees implementation of behavior change activities in the community. BRIDGE II selected ten members from each BCI-STC to form Community Action Groups, and strengthened their capacity based on experience that using existing structures would more likely result in project activities continuing after BRIDGE II ended.
Community-Based Organization Networks
In order to strengthen the capacity of CBOs and promote sharing among them, existing CBO networks were strengthened or rejuvenated at TA and at district level. The CBO networks are comprised of all CBOs in the Traditional Area and in the district. Working with the CBO networks enhanced the dissemination of project activities even to those areas where BRIDGE II was not working directly. BRIDGE II partners built the capacity of leaders from CBOs and CBO networks in resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation and leadership in order to enable them to source funds for implementation of activities.
The Community Action Groups (CAGs) were one of the key structures in the implementation of the Community Action Cycle, facilitating the process of community mobilization by engaging community members and promoting widespread community participation. CAG members led the community in exploration of issues that facilitate the transmission of HIV, and development and implementation of community action plans.
As noted above, CAGs were formed at the Group Village Headman Level in all communities where BRIDGE II was implementing its activities, composed of 10 community members drawn from the BCI-STC of each local CBO at Group Village Headman Level. The selection process of CAG members was done in a way that ensured equal representation of women and men, people with disabilities and people living with HIV to make sure that their voice is heard. CAG members were trained on basic facts about HIV and AIDS, group dynamics, group facilitation, leadership, and resource mobilization.
Village Discussion Groups
As one way of enhancing communication between married partners, BRIDGE II formed village discussion groups (VDGs), to prompt discussions around HIV in marriages, which was initially identified as difficult and/or impossible by married couples in the communities. VDGs were comprised of both men and women with a total of 25 people in each group, and were formed in each village with a maximum of 8 groups per village. To maximize information sharing, these groups were not permanent structures; after completing discussion topics in the Tasankha Discussion Guide and Journey of Hope, they were dismantled and facilitators, selected from CBOs basing on a preset criteria (being hard working, being a dedicated resident member of their community, ability to read and write, and having good character such as keeping other peoples’ privacy) formed new groups and/or began discussions with already existing groups formed by other projects, such as those doing village savings and loans schemes. Membership in the VDG was voluntary.
Four facilitators were trained in each GVH to facilitate discussions amongst group members. These facilitators were trained on Tasankha and the Journey of Hope by Master Trainers. In year 5, facilitators were also trained to do referrals under the Promotional Model of Referrals.