Preserving Cultural Values While Eliminating Harmful Practices
When addressing harmful traditional practices, it is important
to emphasize that both harmful and positive practices are found in
Soliciting the advice of the local community in the design of a
project ensures that the strategies and advocacy messages developed
will be culturally acceptable.
Publicizing successes can create a sense of pride and reinforce
Relying on local project managers helps to ensure acceptance of
a programme in the community.
Using a non-prescriptive approach that involves people who have
experienced the practice (either directly or indirectly) instils
a sense of ownership.
Providing hard evidence of the impact of harmful traditional practices
helps the community internalize the need for change and make informed
Engaging Uganda's Kings and Chiefs
Patience and perseverance eventually pay off. A great deal of dialogue
and sensitization may be required to break new ground on issues that
are deeply rooted.
To bring cultural leaders on board, provide evidence during preparatory phases of the potential value of a pr oject.
It is essential to understand the thinking of both your allies
and adversaries. Be ready to engage in an ongoing and constructive
dialogue with those who oppose your views.
Demonstrating sensitivity in the choice of language and topics
for discussion, especially in the early stages of project formulation,
helps to get a joint initiative off to a good start. The concept
of family planning, for instance, may have negative associations.
Instead, frame the issues in the larger—and more positive—context
of reproductive health and healthier families.
Identifying an effective “agent of change” within a partner institution
who can serve as a compass and guide on sensitive matters can ease
Aligning with the Muslim Community
Acquiring a deep understanding of community values and needs is
the basis for an effective project strategy.
Securing the commitment of top leadership is often necessary to
win over a community.
Identifying specific religious leaders as agents of change and
involving them from the outset can facilitate project implementation.
Providing evidence based on operational research is often the most
effective way to approach controversial issues.
Using religious references can reassure community and religious
leaders that project objectives are in line with religious teachings.
Asking religious leaders to do what they do best (in this case,
mobilizing the community) and letting health workers manage the technical
aspects of reproductive health activities is an effective division
In many societies it is necessary to make a special effort to reach
women. In this case, it was by getting the men to buy into the concept
of reproductive health first.
Building capacity can help ensure sustainability. This includes
training for health services providers and peer educators.
Using the Outreach of the Church
Using established networks and structures to deliver advocacy messages
within the community can maximize the outreach of a project at minimal
Reaching out through popular culture, including music and drama
groups, can have particular appeal to youths. Be sure to involve
young people in the creative process.
Soliciting the support of custodians of culture can help overcome
obstacles. In this case, the strong involvement of top religious
leaders led to noticeable changes in community attitudes, especially
regarding the right of girls to remain in school and refuse early
Convincing faith-based partners to make a financial contribution
to the project, even if it is only symbolic, can enhance their sense
of ownership and increase the chances that a project will be sustainable.
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