|African Women and AIDS: Scope, Impact and Response (UNESCO, 1999, 59 p.)|
By Lillian K.S. Chigwedere
(Psychologist Independent Consultant, Harare, Zimbabwe)
The exchange of experience between the organisations show that the main messages deal with abstinence, fidelity and the use of condom. For the messages to induce among women, especially at the grassroot communities, the change in behaviour aimed, a favourable socio-cultural, economic and juridical environment is necessary. The mutations must also rest on the heritage of the leaders who are supposed to be role models for change even if the benefits of the African culture have been reduced with the introduction of exogenous factors resulting from the pseudo-development of the African countries.
Therefore, the objectives of this chapter are to:
1. critically analyse messages and tools that have been used so far in the HIV education programmes by the various organisations in relation to their sensitivity to gender and the needs of HIV positive people.
2. Suggest a list of messages and methods that are gender sensitive and appropriate to the needs of seropositive people.
3. Suggest appropriate materials for use at grassroots level.
It is therefore expected that the participants will be ready to develop appropriate messages and tools for use in their efforts to help grassroots women minimise the spread of the HIV virus and protect themselves against HIV infection.
Types of messages and target populations
Many of you asserted that you take gender and seropositivity into account in the preparation and dissemination of these messages.
Gender refers to widely shared ideas and expectations (norms) about women and men. Ideas about feminine and masculine characteristics, abilities, expectations about how men and women should behave in various situations. These ideas and expectations are learned from families, friends, opinion leaders, religious leaders, workplace, media, cultural institutions and schools. They reflect and influence the different roles, social status, economic and political power of men and women in society (SAFAID & WHO, 1995).
Seropositive refers to people who are HIV positive i.e. they have the HIV virus in their body.
Summary of Gender and seropositivity
- Question: What are some of these norms and ideas as far as communities in your countries are concerned? List
- How appropriate are your messages? Are they gender sensitive?
- " Is it possible to have gender and seropositive sensitive messages and tools to reduce the vulnerability of both men and women to HIV infection? Yes/no. If yes HOW?
- Target group
- Appropnateness i.e. language, perceptions, connotation (discriminating, blaming, threatening, preaching, moralising)
- Enabling/empowering/realistic i e Does the message give the individual the skills to be assertive enough to act?
- Vehicle of the message - how is the message going to be presented to the target group.
These may be short term or long term.
Short term - this is probably what your organisations are currently involved in. Indeed the process of change begins by awareness which includes provision of accurate information about HIV/AIDS, access to health education and access to means of protection. An analysis of responses to the pre-workshop questionnaire shows that most of your organisations' activities are designed to fulfill this short term objective.
Long term - However as has already been discussed, the vulnerability of women to HIV infection is closely linked to cultural and social factors. A study by Mwale & Burnard to gain insight into the perceptions of rural women in Zambia regarding HIV/AIDS confirmed this assertion as most women interviewed concurred that:
- There is a need for not only women but men as well to be taught the true facts about HIV.
- Cultural and traditional practices are a cause of concern regarding the spread of HIV.
If these issues are not addressed we may be chasing a dead horse. What organisations need to do now is to move a step further and embark on strategies that are directed at changing ideas and patterns that inhibit both men and women from acting and engaging in risk reduction in behaviours. The messages and tools that are used should therefore be realistic, practical, appropriate and enable an individual to act upon them (assertiveness).
1. Let's examine some of the messages that your organisations have used so far. List all messages on flip chart and analyse each one for gender and seropositive sensitivity.
2. How can the messages be modified to make them sensitive?
3. What tools are best to effectively and appropriately make these messages work?
Stumbling blocks to assertiveness:
- Fear of retaliation
- Lack of knowledge of assertiveness
- Belief that 'I don't deserve to be in control'
- Fear of being labelled
- Fear of stirring up anger
- Fear of losing friendship.
These are genuine fears and unless one receives help in the form of training, it becomes difficult to even think about change. Thus as you work on various messages and tools bear in mind this very important element in the process of change. Perhaps future workshops need to focus on assertiveness training so that co-ordinators can effectively help grassroots women to protect themselves against HIV infection and other forms of abuse.
1. ALL participants stand up.
2. Each participant take a position in the room which approximates the position of your country on the imaginary map of Africa in the room.
3. At the top of the card in front of you, write your country's name.
4. Draw a large square on the left comer of the card and a large circle on the right comer of the card.
5. In the square estimate the number of males known to you to have AIDS or have died of AIDS; similarly in the circle indicate the number of females known to you to have AIDS or have died of AIDS
6. Now bring your card and paste it on the appropriate position on the map of Africa on the chart.
- What in your country do you see as making women vulnerable to HIV infection?
- Relevant elements on messages.
- Most commonly used materials: graphic ones as posters, picture books, T-shirts, caps; audio visuals ones as video films, models drama, also stories song, poems, games, puzzles.
- Target groups (youth, men, illiterate in rural areas, out of school youth).
Other tools suggested: Cloth, Pottery, art objects, T-shirts, caps, mugs, kitchen utensils, etc. Objective being mainly to link these with the ultimate goal of inducing behaviour change:
- Open channels of communication
- Bring about awareness of impact of tradition and beliefs.
- Present the pros and cons of the past
- Present the pros and cons of the present
1. Presentation of objectives
2. Summary of messages currently used by various organisations
3. Analysis of these messages for gender sensitivity as well as sensitivity to the needs of people living with HIV
4. Brief summary of criteria for designing of messages
5. Listing of appropriate messages
6. Refinement of messages
7. Interpretation of selected messages into graphics and radio programme
8. Presentation of final product of the: (a) Graphic messages; (b) Radio programme.
Process of change
- Insight, awareness
- Self-analysis, analysis of situation
- Positives negatives
- Action (behaviour).
From a teaching point of view:
- Labelling bad behaviour entrenchment
Successive reinforcement, improved behaviour
Reverse psychology, improved psychology
Messages employing positive elements bring about more positive behaviours.
- Power to change lies within the individuals to make appropriate decisions that improve their situation.