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Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living (CYAPL)

In 2000, Hasina was awarded the Asia Award for Excellence in Youth Work from the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat for establishing community education that promoted the well-being of youth in Shillong.  From 1997 to 2000, Hasina led community youth development programmes on leadership and communication skills through Impulse, during which she noted a serious need for community education programmes on adolescent health and HIV/AIDS.  Hasina approached CYP by proposing an idea for an adolescent health programme.  The organization accepted her proposal and agreed to provide financial assistance to establish a pilot intervention programme focused on adolescent health and HIV/AIDS.  Thus, the “Training of Trainers” (TOT) programme was created, which focused on capacity building for a target group who were in constant contact with adolescents.

In 2004, Hasina was selected to serve as a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living (CYAPL) for her breadth of knowledge in youth health issues, in addition to her communication and public relations skills.  In her role as CYAPL, Hasina successfully continued her involvement with the TOT programme.  In addition, she developed and implemented numerous other innovative and strategic methods, detailed below, to promote youth health and support youth participation in fighting HIV/AIDS.  The multifold approach culminated in the successful adoption and integration of the School AIDS Education Programme by the Department  of Education. Government of Meghalaya.

Training of Trainers (TOT)

In July 2002, the initial target group for the Training of Trainers (TOT) programme included programme officers from the National Service Scheme (NSS) and cadets from the National Cadet Corps (NCC).  Shortly thereafter, the target group was expanded to include school representatives from each of the seven districts in the state of Meghalaya.  School representatives were selected based on their youth involvement and their ability to continue with the programme for at least five years, which would ensure their ability to partake in follow-up activities.   The programme was conducted as a multiple-phase, multiple-day training workshop with a focus on capacity building.While the TOT programme was being conducted by Impulse, the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society (MACS) was running its own School AIDS Education programme.  Impressed by the methods used by Impulse, MACS requested support from Impulse to implement a new School AIDS Education Programme, also known as Training of Trainers for Nodal Teachers and Peer Educators.

From 2002 to 2005, the TOT programme combined with the MACS programmes reached a total of 90 schools, 136 nodal teachers, 88 peer educators, and 39 NSS/NCC officers.  During this period, 18,404 students received training.  Financial assistance for the TOT programme was received from CYP from July 2002 to March 2004.  In addition, the training programme was supported by MACS and the Meghalaya Education Department.In 2006, the Meghalaya Education Department adopted the programme from MACS.  Hasina supported the adoption of the programme by working with the Meghalaya Board of School Education, lending her field knowledge and providing technical expertise in the design of the curriculum.  Through successful advocacy and lobbying efforts, the TOT programme was integrated into the state curriculum in January 2006, making the new School AIDS Education programme required for all primary and secondary level state institutions in Meghalaya.  The program is now managed by the Meghalaya Education Department, with technical support from Impulse.  Hasina continues her individual involvement in the initiative by participating in policy planning with the Meghalaya Board of School Education.

Innovative Campaigns
Innovative campaigns were used to promote adolescent participation and engage youths in the campaign message.  Each campaign related to adolescent health, substance abuse, and/or HIV/AIDS.

One such campaign was the launching of the Magic Box in participating schools.  Nodal Teachers and Peer Educators were given training by Impulse in adolescent health and HIV/AIDS.  Upon the completion of this training, schools were provided with a question and answer box through which students could anonymously ask questions about adolescent health and HIV/AIDS.  On a weekly basis, responses to the students’ questions were provided by Nodal Teachers with the help of Peer Educators.  The responses were then posted to the school’s notice board.  Difficult questions were referred to the Impulse staff members, who provided professional assistance in responding appropriately.

Another innovative campaign was conducted through the performance of street plays.  The theme for the street plays was, “Stop AIDS… Keep the promise.”  In addition to attracting a diverse audience, the street plays were useful in creating an open environment for the audience to ask candid questions about HIV/AIDS.  With the support of doctors or subject matter experts, common misconceptions about HIV/AIDS were dispelled. In addition to launching the Magic Box and performing street plays, other innovative campaigns were used to promote the campaign’s message related to adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse.  These included:

  • Using t-shirts and bags imprinted with the campaign slogan.
  • Conducting competitions in debate, essay writing, and poetry writing on the campaign’s messages.
  • Conducting a slogan competition.
  • Conducting a poster competition.
  • Writing a song that incorporated the campaign’s message.
  • Promoting adolescent participation by hosting entertaining shows (such as a fire spinning show, rock concert, or magic show) during which the campaign’s social message was presented and discussed with the youth participants.
  • Screening films and documentaries related to the campaign’s message.
  • Creating displays and exhibits to promote the campaign’s message.
  • Hosting creative workshops; for example, a session was conducted to examine how music could be used as an effective medium to transcend boundaries of all kinds to spread the message of HIV/AIDS awareness.

The formation of strong alliances with the state’s educational and health departments were critical in advancing the advocacy strategy.  The support and involvement of the stakeholders, especially government agencies, ensured the long-term sustainability of the initiative and were instrumental in spreading the project throughout the state.  Successful advocacy efforts led to the integration of the TOT programme into the state curriculum, thereby creating the School AIDS Education state programme in January 2006, which is now managed  Department of Education Government of Meghalaya with technical support from Impulse.  In Meghalaya, adolescent health studies became a required part of the curriculum for all primary and secondary level state institutions in Meghalaya.

Impulse and the media worked together successfully in order to reach the target audience and call attention to the issues of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.  Broad media coverage was the result of keeping the media informed and updated, and nurturing the developmental agency’s relationship with media personnel.  As Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living, Hasina strengthened this partnership by creating good public relations with the media, giving well-prepared interviews, issuing clear press releases, calling and inviting media personnel to participate in press conferences, and preparing press kits for events.  Press conferences and media publicity, especially newspaper articles, helped Impulse to gain support and visibility for the issues while establishing credibility for the project and supporting agencies.

Resource Assistance
Hasina served as a resource assistant and shared her expertise by conducting training programmes. As Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living, she worked predominantly with the youth in the Shillong and Meghalaya area and her training programmes reached over 500 youths through various programmes from 2004 to 2007.  These programmes targeted youth leaders and members from organizations including the National Service Scheme (NSS), National Cadet Corps (NCC), and National Student and Youth Parliament.  Hasina also served as a resource assistant for some of the follow-up training for the School AIDS Education programme.  In addition to local and regional programmes, Hasina has travelled to other Asian Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka to serve as a resource assistant.  She has shared her experiences of working with adolescent health programmes by lecturing on topics such as effective methodologies and tools, innovative approaches, strategic planning, and gender sensitivity.

Networking Partners
Networking and partnering with other organizations facilitated the development and implementation of the project.  As CYAPL, Hasina approached other organizations working with young people and HIV/AIDS-related issues to prevent duplicative efforts.  In addition to reducing costs, resources, and time, these partnerships created a comprehensive approach for the project.  As one of the major partners, Meghalaya AIDS Control Society financially supported and collaborated on this project.  Hasina also collaborated with the CYAPL of Bangladesh to successfully produce the Fire Spinning Show, one of the innovative initiatives.  Other networking partners provided technical support, training venues, manpower, and resource assistance.  These partners included the Meghalaya Education Department, Lions Club of Shillong, St. Edmunds College, Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication in Pune (SIMC), North East India Harm Reduction Network (NEIHRN), North Eastern Council (NEC), National Alliance for Youth and Adolescent (Population Foundation of India), Impulse, and several corporations.