Masimba Biriwasha: plz join the RV HIV/AIDS Chat Dec 3rd!/All: Read his article on citizen journalism and health in ZW
Dear Masimba and All,
I have been thinking a lot about you, including hoping to pick up the threads of discussion soon on "Pads for Peace" (the name tentatively given to a sanitary-wear project some of us hope to implement in Zimbabwe). Thanks to Cathy Stubington, Ken Owino, and a few others who have posted on that subject (as it applies to Kenya) recently at Holistic Helping.
It occurred to me that you are a blogger extraordinaire, Masimba, and your presence at our Rising Voices chat on December 3rd would be invaluable. Have you seen postings about it?
For everyone, I have pasted below a couple articles written by Masimba recently. One is about the potential of citizen journalism to address HIV/AIDS. The other points to some possible ways in which citizen journalism might be applied in ZW to get health and other information to more people who need it.
Masimba is now working on a book and art project in ZW too, which can hopefully be linked to "Pads for Peace" and the citizen-journalist activism he promotes.
We hope you will join us, and let us know if you need the info on that again. With all best wishes and blessings for your "better-world" bloggings, Janet
Masimba Biriwasha is a children's writer, poet, playwright, journalist, social activitist and publisher. He has experience working with HIV and AIDS issues in Zimbabwe and Thailand. He has until recently been working for Health & Development Networks, an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He has now moved back to Zimbabwe, to continue his activism there.
When it comes to AIDS, staying silent can mean death.
Silence nurtures ignorance, which helps the disease mushroom and wipes out entire communities in the process. In a number of countries, decades of development gains are being reversed by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Amid the confusion of the irrational behaviour prompted by the disease, new information and communication technologies can play a key role in bringing the disease out of the shadows and helping people talk about it in an open and informed way.
Access to vital, life-saving information on AIDS is increasingly seen as a significant human right in the wake of the devastation caused by the disease. It is important therefore to establish innovative and creative ways to reach audiences and provide them with the information they need to raise their awareness.
New information tools provide alternative channels of communication that can help foster discussions on HIV and AIDS. Such channels encourage open and frank discussions about the disease, its causes and how to prevent it. Information and communication are at the heart of HIV and AIDS programs that address private and sensitive issues such as sex, sexuality, trust and death.
New media technologies can also assume a central role in this respect because of their ability to reach large numbers of people individually, quickly and effectively. New media can also tackle the taboos surrounding the epidemic, particularly among young people who are the keys to fighting the spread of the disease.
But behind the facades of these new technologies, we need people with integrity, passion, knowledge and a willingness to share the day-to-day stories of people living with HIV. Independent local knowledge and information is critical if we are to alter the attitudes that help the disease to spread.
Citizen journalism, also known as participatory journalism, allows community members to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information and the practice is already playing an important role in the fights against HIV. Citizen journalism enables correspondents located in different parts of the world to tell the local and national views of those coping with the epidemic on a daily basis.
New media technologies can be used to provide free news and information containing the latest research, analyses, event notices, briefings and reports related to the epidemic from around the world. The internet is promoting unrestricted ways for people to tell their stories.
Never before has there been such as opportunity to share and publish what you know or have experienced without further intervention or help. If the new medias unparalleled ability to communicate with millions of people around the world is fully harnessed, more people than ever will be able to receive vital, life-saving information on AIDS.
Harare, Zimbabwe Representatives of civil society organizations working on HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe agreed on the need to work together as well with government in order to achieve universal access to treatment, care and support targets.
In recent years, national governments around the world have made numerous high profile promises on development, health and HIV and AIDS yet little process has been made on the ground.
Oftentimes governments and civil society engage in finger pointing and blame games at the expense of concrete progress on the ground. At a meeting held to provide feedback on the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) 2008 reporting process, participants said that there was need to broaden the reporting procedure in order to involve a wider section of civil society. Many of the participants agreed that the reporting process had been fragmented and disjointed and did not adequately reflect what was happening in Zimbabwe regarding HIV and AIDS.
There was very little coordination and funding, and we found ourselves running all over the place at the last minute, said Lynde Francis, director of The Center, an organization that works with people living with HIV. As civil society, we need to be better planned.
With a projected HIV prevalence rate of 15 percent among 15-45 year olds, Zimbabwe still needs to have a vigorous care, treatment and support campaign. Indeed in Zimbabwe, the AIDS challenge has become a multigenerational problem, requiring unprecedented resources, political commitment and the full involvement of civil society.
Despite the progresses that has been registered regarding HIV and AIDS, the amount of resources flowing into the country has significantly reduced in recent years thus affecting the ability of civil to effectively play its role of both reaching out to the marginalized and of playing the watchdog role of government.
Limited donor funding has in many ways shrunk the capacity of civil society to monitor and report on the UNGASS process.
A key recommendation from the civil society representatives was that there was a need to involve more of the community based organizations in the data collection process.
There should be a process to collect information from different parts of the country so that we develop a national picture, said Farai Mahaso from Batsirai. Its important that the information we present is representative of the national picture. '
Lois Chingandu, SAfAIDS director, said that African civil society organizations need to be more vigilant in making their case heard at an international events such as UNGASS because they tended to be overshadowed by better organized Western CSOs.
Participants felt that the political environment in Zimbabwe had made it difficult to hold government accountable to the political declarations that it made on behalf of the citizens.
The potential to be perceived as being political was real, and for many civil society organizations, the relationship with the state had become constrained. However, fear to engage at a political level inhibits the work of civil society at community level, and there is a need for civil to be proactive and united as opposed to the fragmented approach which civil society currently employs.
There should be an effective communication and messaging system so that civil society organizations can spark the same language, said a civil society representative. There is need for wider representation, and feedback mechanisms should be decentralized so that information is collected from all the provinces.
A UNAIDS representative urged the civil society participants to own the UNGASS process, and actually strive to contribute to it, rather than regard it as a point of contestation with the state. She stressed that though the UNGASS process was global, it need to be owned and actualized at the ground level.
It was proposed that the structures of Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN) should be utilized to reach more people and thereby attain greater feedback from affected communities. Participants also said that civil society needed to hold government accountable to the promises that it had made.
We might not achieve the goals but we must ensure that we know what processes are going on regarding the UNGASS process as opposed to being mere bystanders, said a participant.
It was recommended that the indicators that government is reporting on needed to be put into a simplified version that can be shared widely among civil society actor to assist them with the reporting process. As it is there is no simplified version that outlines the targets government is focusing on; there are many documents with targets that have been developed but these need to be compiled into a single document that can be disseminated to civil society actors for easy monitoring and reporting.
Overall, participants agreed to establish a committee which will be responsible for spearheading the UNGASS reporting for 2010 under the auspices of ZAN.
Key recommendations included:
a. Constituting a committee to oversee the UNGASS reporting process for 2010 under the umbrella of ZAN;
b. Creating a simplified version of the UNGASS country indicators;
c. Motivating civil society to own the country reporting processes.