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Faith-Based Leaders Advocate Social Causes

State and Development Partner

Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh

Piramal Foundation

Problem

Field teams across Aspirational Districts have come across various myths, misconceptions and malpractices in rural communities that hinder the uptake of healthcare services. Some examples are vaccines cause impotency, immunisation is equivalent to birth control, discussing pregnancies, and undergoing antenatal care is counterproductive to the health of the mother and baby and so on. These beliefs are behavioural barriers that stand in the way of immunisation and early registration of pregnancy and various other health and nutrition services, making it difficult for frontline health workers to reach and advise on maternal and child care.

Conventional Solution

In the past, large scale advocacy campaigns on immunisation and institutional delivery have managed to make a sizeable dent. However, these campaigns do not act as myth busters. Those who fall prey to these misconceptions require focused messaging that covers these myths and why are they baseless and downright detrimental to the health of the mother and the child. But these messages need to be delivered by someone the community trusts and will listen to.

Behavioural Insights Based Solution

Who better than religious and spiritual leaders to take on this task? This intervention leverages messenger effect to improve uptake of Early Registration of Pregnancy, Institutional Delivery, Early initiation of Breastfeeding, Routine Immunisation, Diarrhea Management, Child Marriage, Hygiene and Sanitation using faith-based leaders. Faith- based leaders have an enormous influence within local communities beyond what any single awareness or advocacy campaign can have. Their words are believed over existing myths in the community. Such leaders are part of the social fabric of these societies and are trusted enough to talk about sensitive issues that could not be discussed otherwise. Countries like Bangladesh have used this intervention to promote Family Planning. In India, we have engaged the faith leaders to promote Polio and Measles Rubella vaccination as well as WASH initiatives through Global Interfaith Water Alliance (GIWA). Afghanistan has also deployed mobile religious teams to conduct local mobilisation to increase the uptake of Polio vaccination. This has worked in several countries with different contexts because it is based on the behavioural principle of the messenger effect where who delivers the message has a huge impact on the potential to persuade the target audience. Leveraging faith-based leaders' influence for social outcomes has far-reaching positive effects.

Impact

Over 600 faith based leaders have been brought on board and oriented since February 2019 in 16 Aspirational Districts across Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The team along with the existing leaders are identifying more faith leaders and sensitising them to join the transformation movement

Source : Stories of Change from India's Aspirational districts - NITI Aayog publication

Last Modified : 5/10/2022



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