Local, grassroots organizations have the pleasure of working on-the-ground and communicating directly with those they serve. They ensure that vulnerable populations receive the care, information, and sexual and reproductive health services they need.

How can we all (individuals, organizations, and governments) use innovation to adapt our work to the dynamic intricacies present in this COVID-19 world? And, how can we use the lessons learned during this pandemic as a stepping stone towards a more sustainable future? 

Innovation in Information Sharing

Creativity, innovation, and partnership are key elements in creating effective and engaging community outreach campaigns. 

Since March, Girl Up Initiative Uganda has been working tirelessly to build youth-friendly, community-centric, and innovative solutions to the complexities accompanying social-distancing and lockdown measures in Uganda. 

One of our main concerns is the rapid spread of harmful misinformation or the complete lack of access to reliable resources. This disproportionately affects vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations. 

UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, stated “COVID-19 is not just this century’s largest public health emergency, but also a communications crisis…”.  

An important point to also keep in mind is that this ‘communications crisis’ impacts girls and women more severely than men due to the gender digital divide present in most low and middle-income countries. 

In Africa, the proportion of women using the Internet is 25% lower than the proportion of men using the Internet. With an onslaught of information constantly being circulated without verification, people—mainly women and girls—are left in the dark, with many important questions unanswered. 

Mobility and Partnerships as a Solution: Community Health Drive

In response to the complex relationship of COVID-19 and information sharing (with the ability to spread faster than the actual virus itself), Girl Up Initiative Uganda decided to host our first-ever Community Health Drive through our Ni-Yetu Youth Program

The health drive consisted of our team driving in a special, colorful health van to reach the heart of urban communities. We shared health messages via loudspeaker and disseminated information materials.

Information included:

  • public health guidelines for COVID-19,
  • mental health,
  • sexual and reproductive health (SRH),
  • assistance for survivors of violence,
  • and more based on the community’s needs. 

Driving through the streets, we relayed health messages via loudspeaker and megaphone to not only share information. We also wanted to entice curious community members to come out and take a look at the action. 

And it worked! 

After months of lockdown, people were excited and happy to receive health services and resources straight to their doors. One-on-one conversations proved to be fruitful. They fostered openness and trust between Girl Up Uganda staff and community members. 

This was a powerful and fun way to reach people where they are. We were able to provide impactful community-based care to vulnerable populations. 

Our Director of Programs, Clare Tusingwire, stressed the importance of this Health Drive. She pointed out that it was a necessary way to learn what our communities are experiencing at this time. She also said it was a way to remind them that Girl Up Uganda is here to help and support them. 

“This is a key element to bringing about change. People are hungry for information in any way…We even had one parent reach out to us after the Community Health Drive with the hope that we could counsel her daughter.”

The Key of Partnerships

We cannot work alone, especially during these challenging times. 

Girl Up Initiative Uganda knows the importance of building community trust through key partnerships. This helps to assuage fears and promote genuine interest in receiving our information and messages. Therefore, we coordinated our health drive with the local authorities from the Kampala Capital City Authority to ensure safety and good health practices during the day. 

We also partnered with Action 4 Health Uganda and Naguru Teenage Information and Health Centre. These are two well-established and respected organizations supporting the rights of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health services in Kampala. 

With the permission of city officials and partnerships with other organizations, we were able to innovatively disseminate critical information to those most in need. 

There has never been a greater need for access to valid and scientifically-sound information. 

Fighting the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 does not require the use of sophisticated technologies. It requires empowering communities with accurate information, dispelling fears, and promoting togetherness. 

Our Health Drive was a beautiful example of using innovative approaches to further our mission – to create a vibrant movement of confident advocates, using their voices and knowledge to support and mentor others.   

 

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