• New Video Highlights Benefits of Family Planning to Microfinance Clients in India

    FPquoteImagine millions of women who want to limit their family size or space their next birth, but can’t because they lack access to family planning. Imagine that many of these women have no knowledge of family planning at all. Hard to imagine after decades of national and global investments in health? This is the reality for many families around the world, particularly in developing countries, where approximately 222 million women have an unmet need for family planning.

    Innovative approaches to reach people with family planning information and services are critical. Under FHI 360’s PROGRESS (Program Research for Strengthening Services) project —a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve family planning services among underserved populations in developing countries — a key strategy is to move beyond the health sector to reach women and men of reproductive age who need family planning but might not otherwise have access to it. As non-health development programs reach a large proportion of the world’s poor, PROGRESS builds on these networks to bring family planning information and services to communities. Family planning has been shown to contribute to the broader development goals of poverty reduction, enhanced education, environmental sustainability and gender equality, and therefore fits well with the goals of non-health development programs. Currently, PROGRESS supports several intervention-based studies on integrating family planning into non-health programs such as agriculture, environment and microfinance.

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  • Bitra George, India Country Director at FHI 360, discusses the role of innovation in human development.

  • Toolkit Uses Community Conversations to Counter HIV in Malawi

    Awareness of HIV is high in Malawi, studies show. But HIV continues to persist. Clearly, knowledge and messages about HIV and AIDS are not enough to change behaviors, especially where there are high rates of illiteracy. My organization, FAST, which works with FHI 360 on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in some of the most culturally traditional parts of Malawi, began thinking of creative ways to deepen the dialogue around HIV/AIDS-related issues.

    FHI 360’s Communication for Change (C-Change) project developed a Community Conversation Toolkit to help communities take action against the HIV epidemic. We partnered with C-Change to tailor the toolkit for Malawi. The tools, such as role-play cards and finger puppets for storytelling, were customized in collaboration with community mobilizers with whom we have built trusting relationships over many years.

    What is powerful about the toolkit is that instead of prescribing behavioral changes, it is inspiring an organic dialogue among community leaders on specific drivers that spread HIV and AIDS, including cross-generational sex, gender-based violence and alcohol abuse.

    Local leaders are custodians of culture. Because their personal attitudes toward issues such as gender-based violence are linked to overall community acceptance and understanding, they can help change cultural norms that contribute to the epidemic. The toolkit encourages leaders to create culturally relevant solutions, gives them a sense of ownership and inspires them to become peer educators who promote change beyond the boundaries of their community.

    Communities follow up their conversations with their own action plans. Later, our trained facilitators check in with the communities to learn what worked, what didn’t work, and why. Thus, the toolkit allows us to understand a community’s underlying dynamics from the perspective of its people. In addition, if the facilitator takes the community’s concerns to higher-level officials, and those officials choose not to take these concerns seriously, we can act as mediators and initiate conversations because we already have built-in relationships with district officials.

    Local bicycle taxi operators, called “Shapa Boys,” have become integral to bringing the issue of gender-based violence to the forefront. Using the toolkit helped the Shapa Boys feel empowered to bring together key stakeholders, including police officers, to discuss possible actions on issues that affect their community. In these discussions, no one is arrested or punished, but the sensitive issue of gender-based violence is openly discussed by members of the community.

    In addition, issues that came to light through community conversations were included in our strategic plan. In this way, the plan is responding better to community needs that are voiced by the people, so they own the process.

    To learn more about the design and impact of the Community Conversation Toolkit, watch these videos of Maclean Sosono and C-Change Director Neill McKee (below).

  • On July 14, 2012, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, made a special visit to the SMARTgirl project in Cambodia, a USAID PRASIT project initiative, led by FHI 360. SMARTgirl aims to prevent and mitigate the impact of HIV and improve the sexual and reproductive health of entertainment workers, many of whom are sex workers. There are an estimated 35,000 entertainment workers in Cambodia, working at night clubs, bars, massage parlors, karaoke clubs (KTV), restaurants, beer gardens, as well as on the street. Prevalence of HIV is as high as 14 percent, among some groups of entertainment workers.

    SMARTgirl stands apart from other programming among entertainment workers in Cambodia because of its positive, non-stigmatizing approach. It combines evidence-based interventions with the strong SMARTgirl brand, which empowers women to protect their health and well-being. SMARTgirl reaches nearly half of all EWs in Cambodia in their workplace, because it treats them respectfully, recognizes what is important to them and improves health-seeking behavior by raising self-esteem.

    SMARTgirl is one of a number of projects that validates what the international community and national leaders have been emphasizing for more than a decade— that empowering women and girls are vital components of human development. Since coming into office, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as Ambassador Verveer, have continually underscored the importance of integrating these issues into Department of State foreign policy objectives.

    During Secretary Clinton’s recent ASEAN development meeting in Phnom Penh, she was influential in integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into the Lower Mekong Initiative agenda. In a statement, she emphasized the importance of reproductive rights for achieving gender equality; an area that the innovative FHI 360 SMARTgirl program has been integrating into its HIV mitigation program:

    “Reproductive rights are among the most basic of human rights. … Millions of women and young people in developing countries don’t have access to information to plan their family. They don’t have health services and modern methods of contraception. This is not only a violation of their right…it’s also a question of equity as women everywhere should have the same ability to determine this fundamental part of their lives.”

    As this short video on SMARTgirl reveals, the women in the program feel inspired, often for the first time. They see themselves as “smart girls”– women who are empowered to change their lives, and educate others about health issues and rights.

    Says Kheng, “Before I became a SMARTgirl leader, I used to face issues on my own, … but we have the right to help each other and we have to participate in the community where we live.”

    Read more stories from participants in FHI 360’s SMARTgirl program.

  • Protecting the world’s oceans through responsible fishing practices

    June 8 is World Oceans Day. What are the most serious risks that the world’s oceans face?

    There are many issues that the oceans face, including pollution, over-fishing, unregulated and illegal fishing practices, and habitat destruction. Oceans are also very susceptible to climate change, and ocean acidification is a serious issue. Not only are the oceans at risk, but the millions of people who live in coastal communities around the world are at risk as well.

    How is the Global FISH Alliance helping to protect the oceans?

    The Global FISH Alliance (G-FISH) is an alliance of companies and organizations working to manage fisheries worldwide in order to preserve biodiversity and support communities that depend on oceans for their livelihoods. G-FISH has worked with hundreds of local stakeholders in each country where we work — Cambodia, Honduras, and Mozambique — to improve the safety and management of the fisheries. We work throughout the value chain to promote long-term, sustainable fisheries. G-FISH also developed the “Know Your Source” campaign to ask consumers to be more informed about where their seafood comes from, which helps promote responsible fishing practices.

    Who should play a role in protecting the oceans?

    Everyone — and not just because the oceans provide much of the air we breathe. It’s not just an environmental issue. Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans. Ocean tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, and products worldwide are transported via international shipping lanes. We also enjoy ocean reefs when we’re on vacation. Whether it’s becoming an advocate or just being more informed about the ocean’s issues — everyone should play a role.

    For more information about the work G-FISH is doing around the world, visit

  • Making Disease Prevention Fun and Educational

    A section of attendees, including some members of the Police Wives’ Association (POLWA) and Policemen during the aerobics exercise.

    Can cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention be entertaining, fun and educational? If you ask attendees of FHI 360’s community CVD prevention events, you’ll hear a resounding “Yes!” An inaugural event, held on May 26th, took place in the barracks of the Police Hospital in Accra, Ghana. The program offered women, men and children an afternoon of upbeat music, dancing, cooking demonstrations and energizing aerobics exercises.

    Several community events are offered within FHI 360’s pilot cardiovascular disease prevention, screening and referral program. The facility-based screening program was launched in August 2011 in partnership with the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Police Service, and focuses on the communities surrounding the Police Hospital in Accra, the capital, and Atua Hospital, a semi-rural district in Ghana. Through the facilities, we have screened approximately 14,000 clients so far. Our preliminary results indicate that in Atua Hospital, 55 percent of those screened were either pre-hypertensive or hypertensive. In the Police Hospital, 75 percent of clients were either pre-hypertensive or hypertensive. We have also found that the proportion of overweight or obese clients was 48 percent in Atua Hospital and 59 percent in the Police Hospital.

    In order to strengthen prevention activities – and address the high prevalence of CVD risk factors in the pilot communities – we recently complemented the facility intervention with a community-based behavior change campaign to promote healthy lifestyles. The campaign targets female heads of households. The slogan, “from your heart to theirs,” reinforces the position of women as the primary decision makers on what the family eats as well as their health-seeking behaviors.

    Actress and Caterer Akorfa Edzeani-Asiedu at her stand during the cooking demonstration at the Launch.

    The central component of the community campaign lies in monthly community events, which provide a range of entertainment and educational activities. During the first event in May, physical activity was promoted through music, dancing and group aerobics instruction from a professional trainer. Cooking demonstrations and taste testing were led by a local celebrity, Akorfa Edzeani-Asiedu, to promote a reduction in salt, unhealthy fats and oils, sugar and alcohol. Additionally, health care workers were on hand to screen 125 attendees for behavioral and biomedical CVD risk factors. Prevention counseling was provided and referrals were made as necessary. Additionally, health care workers were on hand to screen 125 attendees for behavioral and biomedical CVD risk factors. Prevention counseling was provided and referrals were made as necessary. The positive response to this initial event is an encouraging sign that these educational social gatherings can engage communities in making healthy lifestyle changes.

    “We are learning a lot. This program is very good for us. We will try to eat healthy and stay active so that as Policemen, we will be healthy enough to maintain security and protect life and property in this country” Police Constable Ofei, Cantonments Police Barracks, Accra.

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  • Video Workshops and Toolkit Offer Crash Course to Agriculture Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa

    A version of this post originally appeared on USAID’s Blog, “IMPACT”. Reposted with permission.

    Inexpensive video production has become a viable way for agricultural organizations to communicate with beneficiaries, donors, and the public. And it’s not just posting on YouTube. Devices such as handheld projectors and tablet computers have come down in price, enabling practitioners to disseminate to farmers in rural areas with minimal technology. Social networks – just a few years ago only the purview of wealthy countries – are now truly global. In regions with electricity, a well-executed video can now go viral – and become more impactful than the slickest behavior change campaigns of decades past.

    It is exciting, but that doesn’t make it simple. Organizations continue to make low quality videos that fail to engage their audience or reflect the core objectives of their project.

    To help users learn the ropes, the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project has developed an online toolkit that can help one through every stage of planning, producing, and disseminating agricultural videos. It is called “Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners,” and is available for free download.

    The toolkit is also the basis for a series of four workshops offered this month to USAID implementing partners by toolkit author Josh Woodard and myself, in Kenya, Mozambique, and Ghana. The first of the trainings was completed last week in Nairobi.

    The workshop focuses on implementing your low-cost video vision, which requires skills beyond playing Spielberg: strategically thinking about message, storyboarding narrative concepts, planning dissemination, troubleshooting inevitably buggy software, and personal perseverance, all play a role in a video’s success or failure.

    One participant, Victor Nzai, program assistant for USAID-funded Agricultural Market Development Trust of Kenya (AGMARK) project focused on agro-pastoral development, felt the training would improve his project’s ability to encourage farmers to efficiently integrate grazing range land and food production in Kenya.

    “We have been doing dissemination via field days quite successfully, but with video, we can reach many more farmers than before,” said Nzai. “We shall shoot the videos ourselves, and edit them into comprehensive tools that can be presented by a facilitator.”

    Agricultural development practitioners are looking for new ways to leverage video to circulate information and engage local farmers. Video can help them do it – but it is the holistic consideration of concept, design, and execution that will maximize chances for success.

    “Not everyone will adopt our ideas,” said Nzai. “But when we multiply the number of farmers we reach, we are able to tune our message with video to encourage farmers and pastoralists to consider better ways.”

    Learn more about using information and communication technology in agriculture.

  • In the beautiful and remote Cambodian province of Pailin, FHI 360 is working with rural communities to reduce malaria transmission and save lives.

    With support from the Global Fund through the Village Malaria Workers program, FHI 360 has trained people in 28 villages across this region to provide malaria education, diagnosis and treatment. Village workers have provided malaria testing to 13,351 fever patients in these remote areas, and have treated over 3,000 patients for malaria.

    This World Malaria Day, visit Pailin by video. Your guide is an FHI 360 malaria program coordinator who shares how the program works.

    Visit this page for more information about our recent work in Pailin, Cambodia.