Fifty-three representatives from the Government of Rwanda, donors, and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners gathered at the Umubano Hotel in Kigali on June 29 for the launch of the new National Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Sub-Strategy for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH), a guiding document which was developed with support and technical assistance from MCHIP. The Sub-Strategy identifies six priority areas of MNCH and lays out a communications plan to improve the coverage and uptake of key behaviors by mothers, caregivers, and supporting audiences within each priority area for 2012-2015.
The sub-strategy development was a months-long process in which MNCH and SBCC stakeholders participated in order to identify priority behaviors to promote. During the Sub-Strategy development, a review of existing SBCC materials was conducted and gaps in available messages and materials were identified. The core content for key messages and appropriate channels for delivering messages were determined as well as common behavioral objectives for actors in the health sector to work towards.
Ms. Nana Garbrah-Aidoo, of UNICEF’s Communication for Development (C4D) program, said of the process: “I’ve been telling people it’s the way to go. Sometimes consultants will come, develop a strategy, and then disappear. For Rwanda, [the sub-strategy] is 150% achievement, and will guide people practically on what to do. I’m recommending a similar approach for a new government initiative, 'Rwanda reads.'"
Mr. Peter Dusenge, Director in Charge of Health in Nyabihu District, Western Province, who has participated in the development process, says that Nyabihu has already begun using the Sub-strategy to prioritize activities. He says: “We know behavior change is a process. We must mobilize and talk and talk to change minds. We can also show by example that these things can be done.”
Mr. Dusenge’s team is looking forward to the upcoming district workshop when community health workers and traditional artists will be gathering in Nyabihu District to develop local key messages, songs, and dramas from the core message content in the Sub-Strategy. This workshop can serve as a model for roll out of the sub-Strategy to other districts.
Featured speakers at the launch included Dr. Fidèle Ngabo, Maternal and Child Health Unit Coordinator at the Ministry of Health (MoH); Dr. Patrick Condo, USAID; Mr. Jean Bosco Gaherebuka, WHO (representing One UN); and Mr. Jeremie Zoungrana, MCHIP Chief of Party. Mr. Zoungrana remarked that “The mode of use of this document is to use it. It must be used to be valid.”
A youth theater group performed an “edutainment” piece highlighting some of the key behaviors by contrasting a harmonious and healthy family, where the husband and wife jointly made decisions about health, nutrition, and education, with a family where there was conflict and a lack of support for healthy behaviors. The role that extended family, neighbors, and community health workers can play in supporting more vulnerable families to practice healthy behaviors was vibrantly demonstrated.
Finally, implementing partners reaffirmed their commitment to roll out the Sub-Strategy in a coordinated way, using it as a living, guiding document. Dr. Ngabo from the MoH concluded by emphasizing the importance of the Sub-Strategy for Rwanda, saying: “It is a health sector document, not just a Ministry of Health document. In our family, in our village, in our District, even in our office, we have to implement it.”