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5 JULY 2022
                                                                 
Welcome to Vol. 16 of ‘Behaviour Change Matters’. In this edition, we throw light on how faith, culture and entertainment help in the growth of human societies by creating the space and environment for social and behaviour change in the most distressing times around the world. From Bihar’s faith leaders who joined hands for disease prevention in their state, to Chhattisgarh volunteers who utilised festivals for spreading the right messages – we get you stories from across India that help us witness the change catalysed through social and behaviour change. We also welcome a special contribution by BBC Media Action on one of a kind drama that talks about love, life and sanitation. And finally, sharing our Father’s Day thoughts from last month, ‘Meet the Dads’ piece talks about how fatherhood proves to be a life-changing experience for our team members at the SBC section.
Sid Shrestha Chief - Social and Behaviour Change, UNICEF India


 
FAITH LEADERS JOIN HANDS TO FIGHT A HEALTH BATTLE
A look back at how religious preachers and places of worship set examples to promote disease awareness and prevention during COVID-19 pandemic in Bihar 

Located in the eastern part of India, Bihar is a state of more than 119 million inhabitants. The population speaks multiple dialects and thrives on age-old beliefs prevalent in a land that spreads to more than 94,000 square kilometers in area. A sizeable number of the state’s rural population works as migrant labour around the country. Nearly 2.5 million migrant workers returned to Bihar during the nationwide lockdowns imposed during COVID-19 pandemic. This led to severe chaos in the state and the government announced various schemes with the objective of rehabilitation. Understanding the cultural dynamics of the state, the situation also required faith based interventions to help overcome the crisis. The faith leaders of Bihar Inter-Faith Forum for Children (BIFC), supported by UNICEF, pledged to generate COVID-19 awareness amongst their community members and helped fight stigma and tackle myths, leading to a better vaccination record and preventive measures in various districts of the state.
 
Mission Surakshagrah: Multisectoral initiative in six districts
 
During the initial spread of COVID-19 pandemic, many people remained unaware of the cause of the infection, preventive measures and proper medical care that was required in case of illness. There were also several myths associated with COVID-19 vaccination with regards to fertility, mortality and other side effects. It was to address these myths UNICEF Bihar field office decided to engage faith based leaders and organizations to solicit their engagement with their followers on tackling myths and generating awareness on COVID-19.
 
Under a special initiative called Mission Surakshagrah (mission safety cocoon), community mobilisers were given the name of Suraksha Praharis (safety sentinels) and were engaged to conduct meetings with faith leaders to sensitize them on their roles and responsibilities to demystify the myths associated with COVID-19 and its vaccination. This helped in not only disseminating the correct information to the masses but also established religious preachers as symbols of health awareness within their communities. A total of 477 faith leaders were sensitized by the community resulting in positive case studies.

From the mosque to vaccination centre 
                                                        
Tausheeb Raza is a young 24-year-old Maulvi (Islamic preacher) in Ganger, Purnea. He had moved out of his village to study Arabic in Kerala. After completing his education he came back to Bihar and started teaching young children in his village. Tausheeb is the voice behind the Azaan (Muslim call for prayer) that rings across the village and the community trusts his word. However, the pandemic period saw many misconceptions take root in Ganger village. Vaccine hesitancy became exceedingly difficult to overcome as rumors gained strength in the area. “Vaccines can lead to death, they carried microchips for tracking people, and they were bad for the fertility of women and dangerous for the fetus”, these were a few of the several rumours in the district.

477 Faith Leaders were sensitised to spread messages related to vaccine promotion in six districts of Bihar ©UNICEF/India/SumitDayal
 
Religious leaders like Tausheeb had a strong influence on many community practices and the Suraksha Prahari volunteers and the Block Coordinator felt this might be the right channel to help bust myths in the community. They met with a few preachers and the village head for support and Tausheeb was one of them. Tausheeb soon grasped the importance of vaccination and pledged his support to RCCE (Risk Communication and Community Engagement) initiative. He went around his village conducting house to house visits to persuade people to follow COVID Appropriate Behavior (CAB), promoted COVID-19 vaccination uptake and also played an important role in breaking myths. Before and after the congregation at the mosque, he sensitized people about the importance of regular handwashing, wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Tausheeb himself got vaccinated and used the opportunity to record and share a video of his experience through multiple digital channels. These testimonies and other forms of communication had a strong imprint and soon more people started getting vaccinated. The communication materials developed by the RCCE intervention supported many of these initiatives. 

Tausheeb proudly shares that all adults in his village are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and everyone is looking forward to the upcoming vaccination for their children.

Following COVID Appropriate Behaviours (CAB) in God’s home

Shivram Das is the head priest of the local Bajpatti temple in Sitamarhi district, Bihar. Das decided to take up the responsibility to spread COVID-19 awareness amongst the devotees visiting the temple. After a sensitisation meeting conducted by Suraksha Prahari volunteers, he started to give regular advice on CAB during the prayers in the temple. The temple authorities also offered masks and sanitizers to the visitors in need. Shivram makes regular announcement at the temple about reliable information on COVID-19 and vaccination process for the locals.

Regular announcements inside temple premises helped spread the right messages about COVID-19 Appropriate Behaviour in Sitamarhi, Bihar ©UNICEF/India/2022/VPanjvani
  

Delivering the message by setting examples

It is important to note that BIFC faith leaders demonstrated their leadership by first following the safety and social distancing guidelines themselves. They did not hold any congregations and activities at their premises during lockdown and continuously appealed to their followers to stay at home through direct messages, media and social media. They came out with video appeals on COVID-19 prevention and adhering to lockdown guidelines and special care of women. Many faith actors self-recorded their videos as no professional videographer was available during the lockdown. Although some videos were not of high technical quality, the messages were crucial. These videos were packaged by UNICEF teams and disseminated widely through mobiles and social media channels. Individual messages, interviews and appeals from faith leaders were regularly disseminated by different mainstream and social media especially before religious gatherings and key festivals like Easter, Navratri, Dussehra, Ramzan, and Eid.

 

477 faith leaders were oriented by Suraksha Prahari volunteers on the correct usage and impact of media, social media platforms and CAB in the six districts of Madhubani, Darbhanga, Sitamarhi, Supaul, Purnia and Muzaffarpur which resulted in de-busting of myths associated with vaccine uptake. The combined efforts of the volunteers and faith leaders resulted in 7, 97, 805 people getting vaccinated in these districts. The faith leaders also used various social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter to identify fake news/myths and made conscious effort towards demystifying them and spreading the right messaging, hence promoting the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination.


 

AWARENESS THROUGH THE LIGHT OF FESTIVALS

Impactful role of volunteers in creating awareness and building vaccine confidence to combat the waves and variants of COVID-19

Religious leaders and faith communities have played a major role in saving lives and reducing illness related to COVID-19. It has been observed that during religious gathering and festivals, volunteers who work along with faith actors have been able to reach the communities with a practical, science-based approach that helped build public trust. In the last two years, various districts of Chhattisgarh state in India have created their volunteer networks with the support of UNICEF, with the objective to address the challenges of COVID-19, ensure CAB, encourage vaccination and overall help the district administration in improving its socio-economic indicators. In the following case studies, we witness the role of volunteers that has been indispensable in containing the spread of COVID-19 with equitable and meaningful inclusion of faith and religious beliefs.

 

Reaching the masses through fairs and pilgrimage
 
The small town of Rajim in Chhattisgarh has been a holy pilgrimage site for Hindus for centuries. Located on the banks of the Mahanadi River, it is renowned for a rich historical past and its varied cultural heritage. The Rajim Lochan Mahotsav is the biggest spiritual event of the region and attracts a large number of visitors. The 15-day-long fair witnesses tourists in large numbers, not only from within the state but from across the country and the world.

100 volunteers covered around 4,000 persons directly each day at the 15-day long Rajim festival in Chhattisgarh. ©UNICEF/India/2022

With the support from the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Chhattisgarh Government, ‘Ruko Au Tuko’ (stop and tell) volunteers were given the responsibility to ensure that CAB was followed at the fair. Around 100 volunteers were divided in groups of five and each group was given a dedicated task to implement. The volunteers were extensively trained on the complete knowledge of the fair and different tasks that they had to achieve such as CAB, COVID vaccination and related behaviours. Volunteers then educated people about the same. Approximately 10,000 people visited the fair every day and one volunteer reached out to around 40 people directly; thereby the team of 100 volunteers covered around 4,000 people each day. The direct reach of the volunteers across the 15 days of the fair was 60,000 people, who were advised to further educate people in their families and communities. If each person further spoke to at least five people in their family and friends, the tentative reach is expected to be approximately 3,00,000 people.

The Ruko Au Tuko programme started in Raipur with around 600 volunteers and today it is operational across 22 districts of the state. Thousands of volunteers are working towards effective observation of CAB, COVID-19 vaccination and mental health awareness.
 

Building the connect through deities
 
Navaratri (lit. the nine nights) is a biannual Hindu festival that spans over nine nights and ten days. It is observed and celebrated differently in various parts of the Hindu Indian cultural sphere. With various customs and rituals surrounding Navaratri in Chhattisgarh, the onset of the festival is a special time for its people, symbolizing the state being the melting pot of various cultures.

To create awareness towards COVID-19 vaccination and to educate people on the need for it, the Ruko Au Tuko volunteers dressed up as different avatars of Goddess Durga (a major deity in Hinduism) and communicated the message of COVID-19 vaccination in line with the festival. They spoke to people at their homes, in public offices, gatherings and event venues such as fairs to ensure maximum reach. Dressed up volunteers performed various songs, dances and skits to attract crowd and made sure that required messages reached people in the most engaging of ways.


Volunteers dressed up as a Hindu Goddess Durga communicated the messages of COVID-19 vaccination and CAB during the festival of Navaratri. ©UNICEF/India/2022 

As a result of this campaign, it was observed that people’s curiosity towards vaccination increased and their myths reduced. Dressed up as goddesses, the volunteers helped people connect with the messages and those who had taken both doses, felt proud of their action. They not only spoke about the advantages of vaccination but also helped convince their fellow residents to get the same.

Over 10,000 people were reached out to by volunteers, with the rightful information on vaccination.


A promise of protection
 
The festival of Rakshabandhan (the bond of protection) rests on the belief that siblings should take care of each other and protect each other against any harm. They assure this through a vow of sorts by the sister tying a Rakhi (a colorful thread) on the brother’s wrist, and the brother gives a gift to the sister. Understanding the core ideology of the festival, Baapi volunteers of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh connected the festival with the evils of malnutrition and COVID-19. They spoke to their community and educated them on how ensuring their families’ health is the biggest gift one can give and protecting them against evils of malnutrition and COVID-19 is the need of the hour.
 
Baapi Na Uwat is a volunteering initiative in Dantewada district, which focuses on the traditional knowledge and influence of the village elderly. Grandmothers are the key volunteers in this programme, who primarily focus on mother and child health by working on behaviour change. Around 250 grandmothers are working selflessly to motivate people towards rightful nutrition, health and immunization.

District Administration, UNICEF India and Baapi volunteers came together to celebrate the festival in the most unique way possible. Anganwadi Centres (Integrated Child Development Service Centres), Community Halls and Nutrition Centres in the area were the hub of festivities. Malnourished children of the district were invited to these centres and were gifted with ‘Poshan Tokri’ (nutrition basket), a wholesome hamper with nutritious food and all the required information to curb malnutrition. Message of CAB and encouragement towards COVID-19 vaccination were also key components of the festival.
 

Creating an ambience of awareness

On the occasion of Guru Purnima, a festival celebrated to honour spiritual teachers, District Administration requested the citizens of Jagdalpur to contribute left over lamps from previously celebrated festivals. Yuvoday volunteers, Ambassadors of Cleanliness and Hygiene, and people of the city came together to light 51,000 lamps to symbolise their pledge in keeping their city and environment clean.

 

People of Jagdalpur city came together to light 51,000 lamps to symbolise their pledge in keeping the city clean. ©UNICEF/India/2022 

Yuvoday, literally translated as ‘Rise of Youth’, is a volunteering initiative in Bastar and Kondagaon districts which aims to bridge the gap between administration and citizens by creating an army of volunteers who have a drive to contribute towards the development of their community. Around 10,000 volunteers work across 10 social sector areas including COVID-19. In one year, Yuvoday volunteers have assisted 2,00,000 people for COVID-19 vaccination and distributed 1200 books to children in need during the pandemic.

Clearly, with the right communication and message delivery, the volunteers working along with faith actors and religious activities have helped ease the community struggle to overcome the virus and acted as a support system in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Several interventions that were initiated in April 2021 are still ongoing and volunteers continue to contribute and participate in COVID-19 awareness and disease prevention programmes across the state.

 

BUILDING BRIDGES THROUGH FAITH AND CULTURE
Cultural interventions for disease awareness in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

Historically, humans have faced various life threatening diseases that resulted in global pandemics and stayed a challenge for the scientific and medical community for decades. However, culture and religion have often played a pivotal role to help communities accept and face such challenges around the world. Following stories from two states of India tell us how belief and culture can help us spread the right message and find a way to bring about a change amongst the most marginalised communities and ethnic groups.

Educate a woman, educate a family

Village Khwajapur in Jaunpur district is known to be one of the most underdeveloped regions of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Broken roads and a dilapidated drainage system show that it still lies far from the development plans of the local government. With a population of about 3000, predominantly Muslim, the village is located 45 km away from the district headquarters.

It was observed that despite being most marginalised and deprived of education from a very early age, the women in this community took the major responsibility of earning a livelihood for the families. While the men worked as daily wage labourers, rolling Bidis (handmade cigarettes made of tobacco and leaves) was the main occupation of most women. The village was one of the targeted locations for the CAB (COVID Appropriate Behaviour) awareness and vaccination drive programme being run by a community based organisation in the COLLECT (Community Led Local Entitlements and Claims Tracker) RCCE programme, supported by ADB. However, as most women were preoccupied trying to earn a meagre living, they were far from participating in any kind of development process of the village. 

During the awareness campaign, the organisation’s volunteers learned that there were many misconceptions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, such as impotency and early death. The volunteers were driven away by the villagers, and some community members even drove away the ASHA worker several times. The frontline workers then decided to approach the Pradhan (village head) who suggested that it was important to take the Maulana (Islamic preacher) in confidence and try to spread the message through him. This proved to be the major turning point in the situation. The preacher spread the message from the mosque giving examples of Muslims living within and outside the country who have got vaccinated. During the congregational prayers too, he requested everyone to get vaccinated and support the organisation in busting the myths. Men went home and spread this message to the women, who came out and eventually started participating in the awareness programmes. In this entire strategy and intervention process, the local partner organisation got full support from Praxis and UNICEF by means of IEC material for dissemination in the community and trainings. 


Women who participated in awareness programmes went home with a new perspective on vaccination, leading to 152 persons getting vaccinated in Khwajapur village, Uttar Pradesh. ©UNICEF/India/2021/SBiswas 

As a result, 152 women and men of the village got the vaccine. Munni Begam, the founder of Nari Chetna Foundation believes the credit for this change should go to the local women. “There is a famous quote by former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that women must be awakened to awaken the people. Once she takes her step, the family moves on and so does the society,”she said.


Life is a theatre, change is the story

Bhagalpur district of the Indian state of Bihar is mostly famous for its silk, apart from the tombs and shrines located on the banks of the river Ganges. Eight locations were selected here for COVID-19 interventions that were roughly expected to affect about 4000 people in both rural and urban areas. The targeted community had mostly migrated from different places in the district and the state, and had been affected either by communal riots or displaced due to natural calamities. A positive aspect is that the community’s present young generation consists of first-generation learners who are getting engaged in the school education system. A local community based organisation Samvet has been working with support from UNICEF-COLLECT RCCE programme on COVID-19 awareness and vaccination drive, linking people with various government schemes through advocacy and liaison with local authorities.

The team discovered that there was no practice of physical distancing, hand washing or personal hygiene within the community. Moreover, due to rumors and misconceptions such as infertility and illnesses prevailing in the community regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, people refrained from getting vaccinated. Another strong rumour was that there were different vaccines for Hindus and Muslims, and that the government planned to eradicate the Muslim community through this vaccine.


The street play contributed to 90 percent of the community getting vaccinated, including 70 pregnant and 140 lactating women at the selected eight locations in Bhagalpur district, Bihar. ©UNICEF/India/2021/SyedAltafAhmad

After much brainstorming, the team thought that the best way to address these rumours was through a cultural art form- theatre. Therefore, a strategy around using street plays to spread awareness and debunk myths was created. A team of volunteers cum artists was formed to do the play named “Afwahon ki Hatya” (Killing the rumours). The play was further turned into a short film that was promoted by Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Bhagalpur. After the play and film reached the masses, the team members started interacting with the community members in order to clear their doubts and apprehensions. People also started watching the play on YouTube and WhatsApp which resulted in self-promotion of the message about COVID-19 awareness and the importance of vaccination.

The use of street play helped a long way in facilitating conversations around the safety of vaccines. The biggest impact of the cultural activity was that 90 percent of the community got vaccinated which included 70 pregnant and 140 lactating women from the community. There was also a visible change in terms of CAB followed by the people that included significant usage of masks and hand sanitizers. 

The UNICEF-COLLECT RCCE programme is funded by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific (JFPR) financed by the Government of Japan through the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The target areas of the programme are hamlets and clusters that are inhabited by Scheduled Tribes (ST), Denotified Tribes (DNT), Muslims, sex workers and transgender communities; and within them focusing on those further marginalised because of identities of age (children, elderly), gender and disability. ADB is supporting India’s fast, green and inclusive recovery from COVID-19 with investments in infrastructure, small-enterprise development, and the social sector. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are two of the 11 Indian states where the collaboration is driving a transformational change through UNICEF and partners.


 
LIFE NAVRANGI: TACKLING SANITATION THROUGH ENTERTAINMENT
Storytelling for impact: BBC Media Action’s Navrangi returns in a colourful second series for web

While India has made huge leaps forward in tackling sanitation in the country since the Swachh Bharat Mission started in 2014, only a third of urban Indian homes are connected to sewer systems and almost 38 percent rely on on-site sanitation structures such as septic tanks. There is hence an urgent need to start tackling the safe containment, disposal and treatment of faecal waste which constitute the Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) value chain. BBC Media Action decided to turn this subject into a story that is both entertaining and engaging for the communities, so that they could take personal responsibility for what happens after they pull the flush. We welcome this special contribution from the BBC Media Action team that helps us talk about a silent yet immensely important urban issue in India.

‘Navrangi Re’ (Nine to a shade) is a unique drama that revolves around life and love in an urban neighbourhood and creates a discussion on Faecal Sludge Management amongst the mainstream audiences, beyond the domain of infrastructure and technology. Building on the success of this 26-episode drama that was broadcast in 2019, a second season called Life Navrangi (A Colourful Life) has been launched in May 2022 as a seven episode digital drama on channel Navrangi on YouTube.


Life Navrangi talks about the invisible issues of sanitation on YouTube through stories of an Indian neighbourhood and has recorded over 3 million views in the last 28 days alone ©BBCMediaAction

Making the ‘invisible’ visible

Navrangi Re! is the story of an Indian mohalla (neighbourhood) where different people live cheek by jowl, and through the trials and tribulations of life, find ways to overcome the constant crisis that has been normalised. The mohalla is a creative device to accommodate an entire socio–economic microcosm with different families occupying different points on the sanitation value chain. The essence of the neighbourhood and the characters are based on human insights from formative research. They reflect real desires, real values, self–image, sense of pride and dignity and aspirations for a better life. The tonality is one of wit and satire. Navrangi Re! has all the elements that you would expect from a prime–time drama – romance, humour, conflict, pathos, villainy and even a talking wall!

The series is the result of a unique partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Viacom18, Centre for Social & Behavior Change, Ashoka University, Oxford Policy Management, and BBC Media Action. This was broadcast by Viacom18 on three channels and their OTT platform. The content strategy for both seasons of the drama identifies actions required from households- regular desludging, questioning indiscriminate dumping of untreated faecal sludge that contaminates water, building the right kind of septic tank without cutting corners and preventing hazardous cleaning.

Just four weeks into broadcast, season-1 of the series had over 45 million unduplicated viewers. It was also ranked among the top 20 shows on General Entertainment Channels at the 9 pm slot. Navrangi Re! encouraged people to want to take action – 37% of viewers said that they intend to do something about their own faecal sludge management practices after watching the show, rising to 78% among those who had watched at least seven episodes.

Education through entertainment

Based on sanitation access and practice, it was clear that the target audience for the show was not those at the bottom of the pyramid, but TV viewers in small towns and cities, with the financial wherewithal to invest in correct sanitation practices, but not enough knowledge, motivation or efficacy. Season-2 of the series focuses on Vishwas, the lead from season-1, who is in search of a life that is meaningful in a new town. There is a story within the story when he teams up with Saloni, a budding YouTuber, to launch their own YouTube channel, on which they tell real stories (as opposed to fake news and misinformation/ disinformation) that make a real difference to people’s lives. The plot points in the story are about owning one’s dream home, making a mark in one’s profession, the true meaning of ‘being smart’, dealing with debt and a marriage threatening to fall apart. In the story, correct FSM services almost become a metaphor for a more organised way of living, managing resources and relationships, achieving one’s goals.

Building an inclusive narrative

The series also aims to increase civic engagement with respect to FSM, with arcs that build on strong female characters across socio-economic and cultural divides. Several characters occupying different points on the sanitation value chain add to the twists and turns in the story. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and technical partners at the NFSSM Alliance, the narrative for the series has been designed to be inclusive. The women characters in the show – Saloni– the YouTube influencer, Collecterain- the homeowner, Laxmibai – the female licensed desludger and entrepreneur in a male dominated profession, have voice and agency, and act to do what is right, driving decisions related to life, marriage, career and sanitation.
 
The show includes characters from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and also showcases the diverse range of sanitation service providers from masons who build septic tanks to desludgers and manual scavengers, each having a role in the broad and episodic story arcs.

Digital dissemination and social media amplification

Since the launch of the Navrangi channel on YouTube on 8 March 2022, which includes Navrangi Re! and Life Navrangi episodes and promos, the channel has reached over 4 million people and has had with over 8.3 million views across all video assets. Views of Life Navrangi alone have been recorded as over 3 million in a short span of 28 days. Alongside the web drama series, a social media campaign #FlushKeBaad (after you flush) has also been launched in partnership with Pluc.tv (People Like Us Create) which is a ‘creator economy’ platform, to create a buzz around the show and to mainstream conversations around FSM across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as homegrown like platforms like Moj, Public, Sharechat and Social Saheli. The social media campaign also features micro-influencers to create stories about FSM in relation to the Life Navrangi web series. Since its launch on 9 June 2022, the #FlushKeBaad campaign has recorded over 117,000 organic views and organic engagement of 1157 across various social media platforms.

We hope Life Navrangi demonstrates that when we root storytelling in behavioural insights and theory; when we immerse the creative approach in ‘people’s lived experiences, and perhaps most importantly, when we take an unwavering focus on ‘entertainment first’, we unleash the power of drama. After all, everyone loves a good story - even one about poo!

Enjoy the fun-filled episodes of Life Navrangi on our YouTube channel Navrangi. Created and managed by BBC Media Action India. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb9c3B51UjEsjL_Aif-nt9w/about

 
MEET THE DADS OF TEAM SBC: FATHER'S DAY SPECIAL


Celebrated on the third Sunday of June every year, Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood and a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of fathers to their families and the society as a whole. We asked the fathers in the SBC team to share how parenthood has been a life-changing experience for them.

 

Being a father is a wonderful and enriching experience, sometimes challenging but at the end of the day it is most satisfying. I feel it has given me a chance to relive my childhood and helped me understand and learn things differently in life. It’s a great thing that we can grasp new ideas from our children as they are from another generation and their fresh perspective adds new dynamics to our lives. Fatherhood has also given me a better sense of self awareness, and a period of self realization that has led to my growth towards being a better human.

-Danish Khan, SBC Specialist, Ranchi


Fatherhood for me started with immense sense of responsibility that gradually translated into my own emotional and mental well being, as well as increased confidence. I have two sons Aditya (19) and Advaitya (11) and it is fun to see two different personalities shaping under the same roof and with same set of parents. I love to spend time with them as they never fail to surprise me with new things. Driving together through various landscapes, climates, habitats, and environment is something we often do and it helps us have uninterrupted time together, learning and discovering on the move. I always believe that children not only learn from books but interacting with friends, parents and the environment. Spending time with them is the most destressing exercise for me.

-Sanjay Singh, SBC Specialist, New Delhi
 


I am a father of two angels, Aradhaya and Aarya. Fatherhood transformed my whole perspective towards life, when I had my first daughter 11 years ago. And the second time, which was a few days back, it made me even more responsible. Being a father has given me the opportunity to reinforce one of the behaviours of infant and young child feeding practices. As a communicator it is very easy to say that we should start early initiation of breastfeeding and do it exclusively for first six months. However, it’s not possible without the involvement of the family, especially the father. It needs time, patience and commitment. I am grateful that I have the skills and awareness to help my wife in this immensely important aspect of parenting. 

-Abhishek Singh, SBC Specialist, Raipur
 



As a father I believe that parenting is a two way traffic – you teach and learn at the same time with your little one. Four things I found important as a parent - one, allow children to choose the career as per their interest. Encourage them to hone hobbies and skills like painting, dancing and so forth. Two, make it a point to travel at least twice or thrice in a year and as they grow and then allow them to go as solo traveler. Nothing shapes a personality better than traveling. And three, create open conversations and be their friend. During the growing years, it’s important to read the signs of happiness, sorrow, restlessness and offer timely help. Finally, be open to learn 21st century skills from them.

-Bhai Shelly, SBC Specialist, Lucknow
 

I would say my journey and lessons of fatherhood started at a time when I held my father’s hand - to the time - as a father myself. I believe in living, learning and passing it on to the next generation. Today when I look at my children, I am amazed at their journey from babies to adolescents and mine from a young dad to an experienced one. We all learned so much from each other and the journey continues. One thing that I always tell them is that they are blessings of the Almighty to me and they should be kind to others in life.

When I think of fatherhood, the words of famous poet Hammad Niazi come to my mind:

Shafīq poro'n kaa lams paa kar, badan saheefe mai Dhal rahā thā

Zayeef ungli ko thaam kar mai'n, badee suhoolat se chal rahā tha

Having touched with the compassionate fingertips, my bodily existence was melting into the revelatory book

Holding the wizened fingers of my old friend, I walked (further) with great assurance.

-Sadique Ahmad, SBC Specialist, New Delhi
 

 
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