Thursday, July 21, 2011

Communities for Change

Compiled by: Yankho Konyani
Written by: Sara Thompson

ADRA Malawi has seen some incredible changes due to the implementation of the Communications for Social Change Program (CFSC), and the community-based groups that have followed. The CFSC Program aims to help communities come together for a common goal, to assess the needs of that community, and to engage with the right sources in order to see their goals become realised. This program has helped to empower community members to become a force for change in their own local areas.

Some community-based groups have raised the area of HIV/AIDS as an issue of concern. In some areas, activities have changed from discussions to formal advocacy activities, and many of these activities have fuelled a desire for action. At the Kochilira site, a tremendous change in the area of HIV/AIDS has been brought about through the CFSC training. ADRA Community Development Facilitators helped facilitate the establishment of the Kochilira Network (KONET+) support group for those living with HIV/AIDS, to discuss common issues. The issue addressed was the incomplete implementation of Antiretroviral Treatments (ART) in all health facilities in Mchnji was a key advocacy issue discussed by this community group. During one of the community dialogue sessions, those living with HIV/AIDS brought up the poor accessibility to Antiretroviral drugs (ARV) because of the long distances these patients have to walk for access on a monthly basis to Mchinji District Hospital and Kapiri Rural Hospital. However, there are other rural hospitals in their area which would be far more accessible, if ARV could be obtained there.

The community group first approached stakeholders about the issue of making ARV accessible. When this had no effect, a petition was signed by the group village head, the traditional authority, and all those on Antiretroviral Treatments, in order to raise awareness of the problem and to urge leaders to action. It was submitted to the district communities, who influenced the District Health Office (DHO) to act on the issue, and strive to make ARV more accessible to those living in rural communities.

With an Antiretroviral unit established in September 2010 at Kochilira Rural Hospital in Mchinji District, the fight for treatment has finally been won. Communities who have previously been disadvantaged in the area of ART now have more accessible treatment options available to them, thanks to the effort made by the Kochilira community. This change was made possible due to ADRA’s CFSC program, which enabled those involved to confront the issues tactfully and persistently. As a result, those affected by HIV/AIDS in this area now have access to treatment, and those involved in the campaign have been empowered to stand up for the certain issues in their area, and for the change they wish to see.

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