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20 JANUARY 2023

Welcome to Vol. 20 of ‘Behaviour Change Matters’.  With the beginning of 2023, we embark upon a new journey that gives us both opportunities and challenges in the new year. In this edition, we look back at some of our special days in the past year that helped us achieve targets and reach milestones in 2022. We bring to you a bouquet of activities and interventions that helped us accelerate the efforts towards creating paths for social and behaviour change. On the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl, humanitarian workers got together in Chhattisgarh to advocate for girls’ rights in our Noni Johar campaign. Utilizing both creativity and curiosity amongst the youth, UNICEF and partners celebrated Global Handwashing Day in different states of India to promote this year’s theme “Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene”. We also present a story on mental health from Lucknow where our Muskurayega India centre has helped people smile in adversity throughout the year. Meet the team features Daya Shankar Singh who was a pillar of our communications work with the government during the tough times that came with COVID-19.

Happy New Year and happy reading!

Sid Shrestha Chief - Social and Behaviour Change, UNICEF India

Humanitarian workers and volunteers in Chhattisgarh come together to advocate for girls' rights and aspirations in an event that helps design future pathways

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population, and therefore also half of its potential. October 11, 2022 was celebrated as the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl. During this decade some big steps have been identified that are required to work towards creating a better world order for girls. While these years have helped throw light on issues related to girls via raising and hearing voices about their issues, investment in girls rights remains limited and girls need global effort to fulfil their potential. The following article talks about a state level programme organised by UNICEF and the Government of Chhattisgarh in 2022, along with We the People, Darshan Foundation, and Alliance for Behavior Change to help create a better path for girl empowerment in Chhattisgarh.
The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. Keeping this in mind, UNICEF and partners joined hands under the slogan ‘Noni Johar’ (salute the girls) where distinguished volunteers and social workers brainstormed towards a better way forward for girl empowerment. Volunteers from remote areas of the districts shared their experiences and talked about the challenges faced by girls from the most vulnerable communities in the state. Gender equality, nutrition and inclusive health, and menstrual hygiene management along with girls' participation in education, sports, life skills, and technical education were the topics discussed by the panelists.

Investing in pathways for girls

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, embody a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. Achieving gender equality and women empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals. Noni Johar programme is created to produce a policy document where challenges faced by adolescent girls and youths could be highlighted and brought in front of policymakers to address them. This documentation is aimed to further create a path towards a better environment for the development of adolescent girls in the state. In a two day workshop organised on the 10th and 11th October 2022, Noni Johar provided a platform to subject experts and volunteers to play their role in order to bring overall transformation and contribute towards social and behavior change.

Noni Johar programme is created to produce a policy document where challenges faced by adolescent girls and youths could be highlighted and brought in front of policymakers. ©UNICEF/Chhattisgarh/2022

Messaging through relatable issues

Noni Johar programme includes a wide range of entertaining media that promotes questioning and raising voices within its audience and participants. It also includes activities that help adolescents and youths question themselves about their dreams and aspirations. Ideas and suggestions were sought from them regarding the challenges and solutions faced in achieving them. Promoted as  #ChampionsofCG via social media, the direct reach of the programme has been more than 17,5000 in number. The programme was supported by various media houses - MyFM 94.3, IBC 2D, Doordarshan, Patrika, Dainik Bhaskar etc. These platforms shared stories of champions that developed a deep connection with the target audience and proved to be immensely popular amongst the local youth.

Media platforms like MyFM 94.3 discussed stories of change targeting the youth of Chhattisgarh with the help of influencers like TV actor Neha Mehta. ©UNICEF/Chhattisgarh/2022

Empowering through Influencers

TV actress Neha Mehta conducted a motivational session in the programme and encouraged the girls by sharing her life experiences.  “It’s important for the girl child to move ahead using her potential and the family and community should help her at every level. Creating a society that is free from gender inequality and discrimination, a safe and healthy environment should be created in which girls feel safe and empowered,” she said. Mountaineer Naina Dhakad, in her session motivated the girls to become self-reliant, while facing the problems and challenges of life.

WASH Specialist Sweta Patnaik from UNICEF Chhattisgarh said that the purpose of celebrating this day is to create an environment for development, easy access to services for girls and women and to develop leadership capacity among volunteers.

The #NoniJohar intervention has received remarkable appreciation over social media platforms with a total of 2,976 related tweets and an economic value of Rs. 572,208 with a sentiment score of  94.57%  as per TweetBinder.


A sneak peek into the unique methods adopted by UNICEF and partners to promote hand washing in different Indian states as well as online platforms on the largest annual event for hand hygiene in 2022

Global Handwashing Day is the largest annual event for hand hygiene celebrated on 15th October every year around the world. It is endorsed by governments, international institutions, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, private companies and individuals, and commemorated around the globe to make hand hygiene a habitual practice. Handwashing is the single most important measure to reduce the risk of disease spread especially during times like COVID-19 pandemic. In view of the year 2022’s theme “Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene” handwashing was widely promoted by UNICEF and partners using smart and appealing methods of communication amongst women, children and youth.

Learning to do it right

The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh holds a Guinness World Record to its name for most people washing their hands in multiple locations. As per the Guinness declaration, 1,276,425 children washed their hands at over 13,196 locations across the 51 districts of Madhya Pradesh on the occasion of Global Handwashing Day in 2014. The event was conceptualised as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) where more than 20 lakh children were scheduled to simultaneously wash their hands from 20,000 schools across Madhya Pradesh. Continuing to keep that spirit alive from the massive achievement eight years ago, UNICEF Bhopal collaborated with the Gram Bharti Mahila Mandal, a women’s collective, on 15 October 2022 where secondary school students were trained in different methods of hand washing. This training was conducted in eight Ghoradongri blocks. Women and children learnt the correct steps of handwashing as well as advantages of doing it right.

A total of 12,369 students from 21 districts of Maharashtra participated in the events and art competitions based on Global Handwashing Day. ©UNICEF/India/2022

Taking the creative path

UNICEF Maharashtra decided to take the creative path to generate hand hygiene awareness in the state. They went a step ahead and observed Global Hand Washing Day and week, celebrated in more than 65,000 schools, 50,000 early childhood centers, 20,000 villages and more than 50 towns - reaching nearly 10 percent of 120 million state population. The event was planned and coordinated by UNICEF Maharashtra WASH CCES Team, State Coalition, Development partners and local governments. As part of the Global Hand Washing campaign, various competitions were organized, including painting, slogan, Garba dance on hand wash and song singing competitions. A total of 12,369 students from 21 districts of Maharashtra participated in the events and art competitions.

Everyone loves a quiz

A ‘Hand Washing Day 2022 Quiz’ was designed to educate and inform young people about the importance of Hand Washing, that streamed live on U-Report India in English and Hindi for ages 14 to 27. The quiz was not only aimed at generating interest in the youths towards hand hygiene but also brushes your knowledge about the dos and don'ts associated with handwashing. Prepared on the basis of research, data and scientific facts, the quiz is available on various platforms over smartphones for the audience. The quiz can be accessed on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. It also came with attached digital posters in both Hindi and English that could be accessed by the viewers.

Since the WHO/UNICEF Hand Hygiene for All Initiative (HH4a) in 2020 - a call to governments and stakeholders to take action towards Universal Hand Hygiene, over 70 countries have globally committed to and have now invested resources and energy to strengthen policy and systems to accelerate progress. UNICEF and partners around the world united to celebrate the Global Handwashing Day 2022 with the theme - Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene. Over the past 2 years, UNICEF India has partnered with multiple agencies including IRC, SIGMA and ISC – FICCI, and carried out four studies and initiatives, covering diverse aspects of the HW domain.
With masked faces in every corner of the world, a smile became the rarest expression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Human connect between individuals was lost as they were faced with new realities like restricted movement, physical distancing, isolation and financial challenges. As an aftermath of 2020, there has been about 35 percent rise in depression and around 36.4 percent rise in anxiety disorders registered in India during the pandemic. However, a new initiative called Muskurayega India (India will smile) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has given many people a reason to smile, despite the loneliness and challenging circumstances.

Muskurayega India Counselling: Filling the gap

With a population of over 200 million, Uttar Pradesh is the most populated state in India as well as the most populous country subdivision in the world. The National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 revealed high mental morbidity and an alarming treatment gap in the state. During COVID-19, the need for mental health interventions further increased.

Started in April 2020 by the National Service Scheme (NSS) Uttar Pradesh and UNICEF, Muskurayega India (MI) is a unique, one-of-its-kind largest team intervention in the field of mental health awareness that offers psycho-social support and counselling to the students as well as general public.

Today, over 120 active, committed and specially trained university teachers of NSS Uttar Pradesh are contributing as Muskurayega India counsellors in different districts of the state. MI counsellors are currently present in 36 universities across 69 districts of Uttar Pradesh. Till date, it has provided psychosocial aid to over 5500 persons, through its telecalling (IVRS) system.

Changing lives via telephone

Psychosocial support over telephone is a specialised area and a series of training webinars were organised with specialists drawn from Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS). A total of 28 webinars and technical sessions run over 50 hours have been organised for the MI counsellors. All this aimed at catalysing a bigger change and helping people reach out to the correct platforms for psycho-social support during crisis.

In the past two years, UNICEF has witnessed many positive stories of resilience which validate the significance of such an intervention. A majority of the cases were mild in nature and were related to academics and career amongst college students. A number of women faced domestic issues while financial strain and unemployment were the biggest challenges among men. MI counselling service reached out to the general population across the state and contributed in managing the issues at an early stage.

Over 120 trained university teachers of NSS Uttar Pradesh are contributing as Muskurayega India counsellors and have provided psychosocial aid to over 5500 persons, through IVRS. ©UNICEF/India/PVishwanathan

Dr. Rashmi Soni, Muskurayega India core group member and NSS coordinator narrates, “A 24-year-old girl Renuka (name changed), holding a very respectable degree from a renowned institute of India came to me for counselling with her parents. I was briefed that Renuka is undergoing psychiatric treatment and since last one and half years, she has been taking medication. She was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) by the psychiatrist. Through an initial counselling interview we were able to identify her anxiety about her career and that was triggering lack of confidence and mood swings and aggression. After only three to four sessions with her and applying some effective NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) the girl was back to her normal routine. At present her medicines are being reduced and she is successfully pursuing her career”.  

Dr. Poonam Tewari, a Muskurayega India counsellor at Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Agra, also came across cases that were looking for a ray of hope which they eventually found at the MI centre. “21-year-old undergraduate student Kishore (name changed), pursuing Law from Aligarh reached out to me, sharing he is unable to concentrate and wanted to quit his course. This was primarily triggered by exam-related stress. I provided him eight intensive non-directive counselling sessions, which ultimately instilled confidence in his own abilities and he was able to cope up. Thereafter, he successfully completed his examination,” she says.

NSS Uttar Pradesh and UNICEF made special efforts to ensure that the phone numbers for counselling reach the masses through newspaper advertisements and social media posts. Videos of two puppets called Tara and Appa were also widely used to spread the word. Tara and Appa are popularly known as “Happiness Warriors” among the youth participating in the initiative.

Looking Ahead

Muskurayega India has highlighted the immense importance and potential of mental health counselling for students and general public. In a short span this initiative has received an encouraging response and showcased the openness of society to reach out for counselling and have an honest discussion with the mental health counsellors.

On 7th April 2022, commemorating the World Health Day, the first Muskurayega India (MI) Centre was launched at Shri Jai Narayan Mishra Post Graduate College (KKC College), Lucknow University. Envisioned as a physical centre hosted within an identified College/ or an University, an MI Centre is equipped to provide counselling services by qualified counsellors as well as facilitate Mental Health and Psycho Social Support (MHPSS) interventions particularly among NSS volunteers and young people.

The next course of this journey, as the network of NSS affirms, is an amalgamation of digital platforms along with empathy and personal touch. Through MI centres in university and college campuses ‘Wellness Warriors’ shall be created who will work on dismantling the taboos in the society as well as provide psycho-social support and career counselling to the people in need.  

Any query regarding RCCE during the COVID-19 vaccination drives in India and we knew who to get in touch with. Daya Shankar Singh has been a part of the planning, implementation and monitoring of the world’s largest vaccination campaign between 2020-22 during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Placed within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in New Delhi, Daya played an integral role in representing UNICEF and supporting ground-level interventions as well as putting together concrete plans to face the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Born in a small village called Khajuragawan near Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Daya completed his initial education in government institutions. After completing his graduation from Gorakhpur University, he moved to Varanasi, where he pursued a Master’s degree in social work. Daya also holds a Master’s in Public Health.

Daya started his career with urban slums and supported the elimination of child labour projects in Delhi’s Yamuna Pushta area. After this, he moved to the Polio Eradication programme and worked for around 5 years leading a team working on very critical sub-regions of Meerut and Moradabad. He has also worked in Afara and Gambela regions in Ethiopia as part of the Polio Eradication and RI programme. While working with IHBP/FHI360 project supported by USAID, Daya worked at the national level as well as in the establishment of USAID focus states and district SBCC cells. He has worked with the immunization technical support unit (MoHFW) in developing national communication and demand generation planning for Mission Indra Dhanush (MI), ROTA and PCV vaccines. Vaccination and immunization have thus become Daya’s forte. “I can say I have worked from ground level to the top in this field - From slums to district, regional, state, and national levels and actively supported in planning, implementation and monitoring of major vaccination campaigns like Polio, Measles-Rubella, MI, and now COVID-19.”

Working during a pandemic however comes with its own set of challenges. While the whole world worked from home during COVID-19 pandemic, Daya was in the midst of action at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, completing time-bound tasks that included national RCCE planning, implementation and monitoring and sensitive messaging related to COVID-19 vaccination. Known to always step out of his house wearing a ‘double mask’, Daya feels he has been fortunate to contribute to the communities and represent UNICEF in national RCCE during one of the most difficult times faced by the country and health professionals.

Daya joined UNICEF India as a C4D Officer in 2017 and is currently based in Lucknow working with UNICEF Uttar Pradesh supporting communication and demand generation activities focus on positive parenting, education and protection.

A firm believer in the concept of giving back to your community, Daya feels UNICEF has given him the right platform to follow his heart and contribute towards women, children, vulnerable and underserved communities.

Married to a fellow humanitarian professional Sushma Singh, Daya is a father of two beautiful daughters out of whom one is pursuing her medical degree while the other is studying to be a lawyer. While fatherhood comes with its own set of challenges, the war in Ukraine proved to be one such challenge for Daya recently. One of his daughters pursuing her MBBS in the city of Lviv had to be smoothly evacuated from Ukraine due to the conflict. Daya understands the effects of war and conflict on education and is relieved that his daughter is back home undergoing her training in a Mumbai hospital. His favorite holiday destination is Varanasi that he has been visiting same day every year - for past 20 years. In his free time, he likes keeping an eye on world news and listening to old Hindi songs sung by Mukesh and Manna De.
The documents disseminated by Behaviour Change Matters
do not necessarily reflect an official position by UNICEF.

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