3.9 Role of health worker in community mobilisation
A significant percentage of children in all societies are denied the right to the best health and development. This results either from cultural practices at community level, poor public policies that directly or indirectly influence their lives, or a lack of action to provide healthy and safe environments for children. As a health worker you can play an important role in mobilising communities to promote respect and realisation for children’s rights. The following are some examples:
- Use your position as a respected and trained health worker to speak at gatherings, like church services, community group meetings, parent–teacher meetings, union meetings, business meetings, community fairs, and peasant group meetings, etc.
- Conduct home visits and talk with families about children’s rights and health issues, how to prevent child abuse, and also what they can do to support those already facing abuse in their families or communities.
- Find a way to talk with and involve the young people (children and youth). Adults usually do not talk to young people about issues that affect them like sex education and that leaves them without knowing some important things that matter to their lives. Youth can also organise dramas, songs and events to reach the youth in schools and communities. Youth have shown in many settings that they are interested, creative and hard working in issues that affect them.
- Involve all kinds of community members in child rights promotion and abuse prevention efforts. Help different people and different groups, see what they can do to help. As a health worker, you can encourage people to:
- Provide for children’s basic needs in their families and communities including, for example, food and housing.
- Care for an orphan or vulnerable child in their neighbourhood.
- Provide abused children with support.
- Help organise a community event for child rights promotion.
- Join in income-generating activities aimed at supporting children’s programs in families and communities.
- Form a drama group and present plays with child abuse prevention messages.
- Pool money to pay for health needs and school uniforms for children in vulnerable families.
- Use their workplaces or their positions to talk with others about how to prevent and support, like business people and teachers.
- Help communities to form child rights promotion support groups so they can ably respond to and act together on issues of children’s rights, including speaking openly about children’s issues and holding others accountable.
- Work with the most vulnerable child groups in the community, e.g. street kids, children in conflict with the law, the orphaned and youth in separated families, to identify key stakeholders that can support their needs and provide appropriate referrals.
It is important to note the following:
- Health practitioners have insight and experience with children’s lives and how their right to the best possible health is affected by their community settings. They also know how the actions and inactions of communities contribute to the failure to protect children’s rights to health.
- When health practitioners act as and collaborate with well-mobilised communities, they can tackle the barriers to children’s rights to the best possible health, rather than simply treating the consequences on a daily basis in their clinics, health centres and hospitals.
- Children remain very powerful allies in community mobilisation. By working together with children, health practitioners will ensure that the change they are mobilising communities for, truly addresses children’s needs and they will be able to have a much stronger voice.
Activity 3.4: Case study
Putting together what you have learned above, read the following short case study and answer the following questions. You may find it helpful to look back at the cycle of mobilisation.
There has been an increase in HIV-infected street children in a trading centre near your health facility. Although most of them have not yet become very ill, you know it is only a matter of time before they contract infections. Unfortunately, you are aware that discrimination against street children in this trading centre exists in the community and that often requests for improved access to health services have been met with a lot of resistance. As a health worker, you want to use this opportunity of high HIV infection among street children to mobilise the community stakeholders to support improved access to health services.
- Why involve the local community to tackle this problem?
- What might be the challenges in addressing the problem?
- What action could be taken to address the problem?
Compare your answers to those at the end of the study session.
3.8 Practical questions to address in community dialogue