Vivian Nordquist gives us an update on the women empowerment project SASA!
“The Awareness Phase, the second of four phases in the SASA! methodology, was implemented from April 2017 until April 2019. After the Awareness phase monitoring and evaluation exercise in July 2018, it was decided to continue with the Awareness Phase until the indicated outcomes for this phase were achieved and enough data was collected to back up the transition into the Support Phase. During the Awareness Phase, Drama Group Members (DGM) were recruited and Terms Of Reference (TORs) stating the role and responsibilities of Community Activists (CAs), Drama Group Members and Field Officers were developed. Moreover, numerous training sessions for activists (refresher training in HIV/AIDS issues) as well as different stakeholders were facilitated. Additionally, several community events were held whereby hundreds of community members were reached. Highlights included a community event in September 2017, one in February 2018 to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism and the participation of DGMs and CAs in the World AIDS Day Fair at Kamanga Health Centre on December 1st 2018.The efforts of the Field Officers to support the Community Activists, monitor facilitations and collect data were intensified and monthly and quarterly data reports are now generated effectively.
Impact on the Community
For the majority of the community we have seen a change in knowledge and attitudes with regards to balance of power and Violence Against Women (VAW). More people break the silence and speak up about these important and pressing issues. This is due to the effort the CAs have been putting into their facilitations by encouraging the community to think critically about their own actions. The CAs are well respected members of the community and are directing victims of violence to the suited support provider. The establishment of a functioning referral system is to date the greatest challenge we face: partly, because the needed support providers are simply non-existent, partly because the local government authorities with which we always aim to cooperate are somewhat unreliable. For some community members it is difficult to grasp that the CAs are not supposed to give advice on how to handle a certain situation but that they are mainly there to consult on where to find support. Some of the community members therefore deem the CAs as ‘useless’. We encourage the CAs to keep doing this, however, as we believe their role is to be a facilitator and to spark critical thinking within the community by asking questions without judging and telling what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.
The community knows the different types of Violence Against Women and the negative consequences that come with it. They can link VAW to HIV/AIDS and understand that VAW is a cause as well as a consequence of HIV.
Women and men in the community agree that VAW is never acceptable and that balanced power between men and women is healthy, safe and beneficial for both. The community agrees that everyone has power and that women are not to be blamed for the violence that is directed towards them. Moreover, it is understood that VAW is an issue affecting the whole community and not merely a private matter.
It is such a great success to see that the community is much more outspoken when it comes to Violence Against Women than it was before the implementation of SASA!. This shows that the community understands the urgent need to act and speak out about the abuse of power which leads to Violence Against Women and girls.
The increase of almost 30% from the baseline to Awareness Assessment for this questions shows that Violence Against Women is increasingly seen as an issue that affects the whole community and is not just a private matter. This decreases the stigma surrounding VAW and reduces the shame women often feel when reporting abuses.
The SASA! project is slowly but surely changing attitudes in Kamanga about how violence against women and girls is an unacceptable act. Join us and help us continue to change lives!