Implementing Community-Wide Events
Reaching People through Open Days
An Open Day is an open-air event, attracting between 500 to 1,000 community members, who participate in various activities that highlight key HIV prevention messages through interactive drama, personal testimonies, poetry, traditional dances, music and interactive activities from BRIDGE II Transformative Tools. Open Days provide an opportunity for participating community members to showcase their efforts in HIV prevention, and encourage others to learn from them and start doing similar actions. In its initial years, BRIDGE II supported Community Action Groups in conducting at least two Open Days at the Group Village Head level every quarter. As part of BRIDGE II’s exit strategy, this number reduced to one supported Open Day per quarter to give room for the communities to take the lead in organizing and financing Open Days on their own. Each Open Day had a theme, focusing on various aspects of the Tasankha “Choices” mass media campaign. All activities during a particular Open Day revolved around this theme.
Open Day events are planned and implemented with input from various community level stakeholders. Upon deciding to hold an Open Day as one way of addressing the identified key drivers of HIV in their communities, Community Action Groups began by notifying the Area Development Community Mobilization Team (ADCMT) members who then spread the word to other local groups such as support groups for people living with HIV, Community Referral Agents and Village Discussion Group members. These groups would then meet to plan each event, deciding the venue, theme, and selecting the Masters of Ceremony. A delegation was then sent to inform the local chief about the planned event, and share the tentative date and venue, providing him a chance to provide input and comments. After the chief agreed to the proposed dates, he would send for village criers who travelled to all of the local villages, informing people about the event. The organisers would also use a public address system to aid with promotion of the event.
On the day of each event, jingles with HIV messages were played at the venue before activities began. During the event, BRIDGE II implementation partners used a wide variety of methods to disseminate HIV prevention information to the attendees and motivate them to make better choices and change their behavior. The methods included drama, poems, dances, and songs. While performances were under way, the Masters of Ceremony emphasized the “choices” being communicated through each performance and challenged attendees to take action in their homes and communities based on them.
After the performances, the local chief would close the meeting by summarizing all the key points that have been given during that event and remind people of what they can do to prevent HIV.
Road shows are similar to Open Days in many aspects, with the key difference being the performances travel from community to community and activities are conducted in places where people meet, such as markets and shopping centers. Under BRIDGE II, a van branded with Tasankha and Ndife Otsogola (BRIDGE II’s Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision [VMMC] campaign) held road shows to disseminate HIV prevention promote HIV services and create demand for VMMC in Thyolo, Mulanje and Phalombe districts.
Community Discussion Forums
BRIDGE II also organized community discussion forums, which were gatherings of around 50 people, who discussed key issues around HIV prevention. In particular, community discussion forums focused on the role of identified key drivers of HIV in their communities as identified during the exploration phase of the Community Action Cycle (CAC) and how to deal with them. Community discussion forums were built on the premise that communities are better equipped to address harmful practices and reinforce more positive behaviors within their communities than people from the outside. Each community discussion forum had a theme and members of the target audience, who have a stake in the topic of discussion as deemed by organizers, were invited to attend the discussions. Organizers, usually the ADCMTs announced at the start of the discussions that the deliberations are not targeting at any individual but are rather an opportunity for concerned individuals to look at issues with a neutral mind and find way for solving such longstanding problems. For example, when dealing with the impact of sexual cleansing, men who take part in cleansing women who have lost their husbands (Fisi) could be invited as targeted group so that they are part of the discussions. They could as well understand from the start of the discussions that the deliberations are not aimed at judging them, but to explore the impact of these acts and find alternative ways of dealing with them. Targeted groups of people included religious leaders, community leaders, women's groups and traditional initiators.