Objective="Reduction in vulnerability of young women to HIV/AIDS."
Details for Reform Option "Women Counselling Centres, Mizoram"
Bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, the northeastern state of Mizoram has a high prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Its population of 8.9 lakhs (Census, 2001) spreads across 8 districts and is majority Christian. Female literacy is high at 86% yet. HIV prevalence among high-risk group is over 1.5% with 429 HIV positive women (State AIDS Control Society, 30.04.05). This number is increasing daily. High literacy coupled with partial awareness of medication and use of unprescribed tablets for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) indirectly increases the vulnerability of the population. According to the United Nations (UN), there is lack of support system to address the individual problems of women in spite of the strong network of existing community-based organisations (District Situational Analysis conducted for 3 months in 2002 prior to the programme).
In response to India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, a project known as Coordinated HIV/AIDS response through capacity building and awareness (CHARCA) was formulated by a joint UN system in 2001. Aiming to reduce the risk of HIV infection among the most vulnerable sections of the society, particularly adolescent girls aged between 13 and 25, it will cover six Indian states. The project encourages women to protect themselves against HIV and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and realise their rights. Vulnerability is reduced by providing information, improving their skills and access to quality services. Five districts of Mizoram were selected for the project. The aim is to mainstream the activities under the project into the ongoing National programmes.
Following the development of District Action Plans and a Log frame, two baseline surveys were conducted: on impact parameters and communication planning and on awareness and understanding of myths and misconceptions associated with drugs and HIV/STIs in Mizoram (final results expected by July 2005).
Training of 900 women counsellors for three days was undertaken. Of these, 300 will be selected as peer educators and appointed at centres where young girls can come together, interact and have group discussion and counselling on HIV/AIDS. So far 510 counsellors have been trained, of which 170 peer educators have been selected. 13 drop-in-centres have been set up in the 3 district headquarters.
289 villages where there is a Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP) (the largest women’s federation in the State) have been selected for the implementation of the project. Women’s centres have been set up at the MHIP offices in these villages. They function on the same lines as the drop-in-centres but at the village level. CHARCA has built capacities of trainers (master trainers, key stakeholders, members of MHIP at both district and village levels) on gender and HIV issues and conducted Training of trainers (TOTs) for each district.
Information, education and communication (IEC) plans were drawn up covering vulnerability of women, HIV/AIDS, drugs, general knowledge and sex & sexuality, using gender specific IEC material, radio jingles, talk shows and Young Mizo Association (YMA) newsletter.
Guidelines were developed incorporating gender concerns in HIV. Materials were developed in the local language on women’s vulnerabilities issues, resulting in greater outreach and awareness generation on the theme and identification of critical gaps (the existing IEC material from various departments on HIV/AIDS and other programmes was analysed (including hoardings, posters, banners, pamphlets) and was made gender specific by 2 IEC consultants). Key stakeholders from various ministries as well as health workers, the media, church leaders and community-based organisations have been sensitised on the gender dimension and the project strategy.
Other tools employed include:
(i) A CHARCA film for awareness generation on women’s vulnerability.
(ii) Music bands to sensitise young audiences.
(iii) Dramas, with the women’s vulnerability issue as its main theme.
Monitoring and evaluation framework were developed, such as formats for peer educators and NGOs to report to CHARCA.
In addition, the community representatives have collated a resource directory giving information on all existing schemes and resources. This will be distributed to all the NGOs and peer educators, to assist in the referral of the target group for vocational training and medical services.
Institutional mechanisms (infrastructure and staff) at the districts are in place.
As it is a very new programme, the results have not been evaluated so far.
Training cost: For 40 to 45 women counsellors for three days, approximately INR 35000 to INR 45000 . (This includes travel allowance, a training kit and refreshments.)
One time cost of INR 5000 per centre to MHIP for refurbishment.
Monthly honorarium per Peer Educator: INR 2000.
Approximately INR 30,000(€576) given to NGOs where peer educators have been placed for documentation and reporting.
289 villages in three districts of Mizoram namely, Aizwal, Kolasib and Champai since August 2004.To start in the districts of Mamit and Serchip in 2006.
Issues addressed: Subject of women’s vulnerability discussed with a range of stakeholders.
Creates alliances: New partnerships forged between Governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Intersectoral links: Church and NGOs working on issues of women’s vulnerability with links to drugs, alcohol and HIV.
Resource materials: New local language materials developed.
Project interventions: Time and process intensive.
Behaviour change: Required at public and personal level.
Frequent Transfers: Concerned Government Officials change frequently.
Situation analysis and planning.
Involvement of Church and other community based organisations such as Young Mizo Association (YMA), Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), NGOs working in drugs, HIV & women issues.
Who needs to be consulted
Government departments including Health, Social Welfare, Police, Excise, Information and Public relations (I&PR), Education.
Community based Organisations
Sustainable.The project aims at strengthening the ongoing programmes of both Government and NGOs whilst being streamlined into the national programmes.
Chances of Replication
So far, it has not been replicated in any part of the country, as it is a pilot project. It is also being implemented in five other States, Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Bellary (Karnataka), Kishanganj (Bihar), Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Jaipur (Rajasthan).
School and college students have also been covered. Support to the ongoing School AIDS Education programme in the five project districts.
The state is giving free treatment to the girls referred by the peer educators, taking care of the nutrition of the target group under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
Dr Arti Bahl, Research Consultant, CBHI, New Delhi