Safdar Ali for BeyondHeadlines
Urban Health Initiative project is a global initiative for family planning panning four countries including India. In India, the project focuses on the urban slums of Uttar Pradesh, home to over 194 million.
Project has explored family planning “Role Models”. These role models are married couples from slums who have successfully adopted a modern family planning method and became champions of family planning in their community. Two minutes documentary films shot on their life experience and barriers they overcome, which was aired on local cable channels. These films are making local celebrities of these role models and breaking the silence around talk of planning one’s family.
Couple Haseen & Shaheen are resident of one of the Allahabad slums. They had been selected as Role Model by Urban Health Initiative in 2011. Haseen works on cycle shop and Shaheen is a house wife. They are primary educated but their dreams for family and progressive thought lead them to adopt family planning method to size their family. They decided to adopt IUCD as family planning method. But their family members were not supportive to their decision.
Shaheen in laws stopped talking and cornered them after adoption of family planning method. She started counseling her relatives but doing so was not easy for her. When UHI team approached couple for shooting Role Model film, Shaheen refused that it may create problems in her family. But finally agreed and shooting done at Usha’s residence.
Shaheen says “I forgot the episode after shooting. But three months later, I got a call from one of relatives that I appearing on television. I rushed to my neighbor to watch the film as I don’t have television. That was one of the happiest moments of my life to watch myself on TV”.
She realized the importance of being Role Model when neighbors and relatives started approaching her to know about family planning. She did not know much about family planning but learned from Usha Didi.
Shaheen says “I motivate others who approach me and take them to Usha Didi for further information. I feel like celebrity in the community after becoming Role Model”.
The Role Model films are advocating to community and front line workers about the importance of family planning services. Potential users associate themselves with these Role Models and get confidence to adopt family planning methods.
(The author is Technical officer Communications, Johns Hopkins University, Center for Communication Programs)