Soumita Basu, COVIDActionCollab
FXBIS India Suraksha (FXBIS) is a CAC partner and has been working towards changing mindsets to fight the pandemic in Puducherry. They are focusing on ensuring people come forward for vaccination and follow simple covid safety rules. Their strategy is simple: use innovative methods to reach people with messages again and again, to have a long term impact and have a shift in mindset. FXBIS works in 12 states and union territories in India, including Puducherry where they work with 1 lakh individuals every year, including fishermen, children, transgenders, factory workers and unemployed youth.
Working in Puducherry has its own unique problems. There are many migrants in the area who don’t have the documentation required for vaccination. FXBIS is still trying to find ways to solve it.
Resource mobilization has also been a challenge for the organization. While the government has been very cooperative, and on occasions has even proactively asked for NGO intervention, it has only been able to give a platform, but not resources. The government has even given a letter of support. State-centre relationship, the governance structure and lack of income sources for local governments of small union territories like Puducherry, make it difficult for them to fund anything extensively.
Mass awareness campaigns are resource intensive. This is where CAC support was instrumental. This also called for innovative ways of spreading the messages with minimum resources, with optimal effectiveness.
Apart from the usual methods, FXBIS chose a few out of the ordinary methods for mass outreach. These helped in reaching a very large number of people in a short time, and with repetitive messaging that worked on people’s minds for stronger impact. Just with banners in strategic public spaces and large stickers on public transport, at least 70 percent of the population has been covered. Other methods were used to expand the outreach even further.
Messaging on milk packets
Printing messages for covid awareness on milk packets was strategized since almost every household buys these. It was advocated to the government and the health department reached out to the dairy companies to implement it.
Governor on radio and social media
Leveraging on the governor’s position and credibility as a medical doctor, regular sessions on radio as well as regular posts and chats on facebook and twitter from her handle.
Influencers from within communities
Influencers who belong to the community, like religious leaders, RWAs, can create huge change if they reach out to the community. The governor accepted this strategy and held a meeting with religious leaders, requesting them to talk to their communities to address the hesitation and accept vaccination.
Snakes and ladders game for school children
A snake and ladder game with covid messages is played with school children. This is done in smaller groups and with a feel of fun and spontaneity. A 20 by 20 tiled square is drawn on the floor replicating a snake and ladder game. A ladder tile has messages on the “Dos” t be safe during the pandemic and once the player climbs the ladder, they get a positive message of being healthy. For example, if its written ‘I regularly wash my hands’ at the base of the ladder, once the players climbs the ladder, the message is “I prevent corona”. Similarly, at the snake tile, there would be a message on the “don’ts” and as the player goes down the same, at the tail, there consequence is written. For example, where there’s a snake, it will say, ‘I was in a crowded place’, with the consequence at the tail saying ‘I’m sick’.
When kids play the game, they understand the Dos and Dont’s. It has been played with at least 500 students and the plan includes reaching all 340 government schools in Puducherry.
Large Stickers and in public spaces
5500 stickers on vaccine awareness, and covid protection have been posted. We have put them on 3000 buses and 1500 autos, and 1000 government and public offices. These stickers were published and officially released by the Puducherry governor.
50 banners in and around Puducherry to address vaccine hesitation have been hoisted in strategic locations.
Announcements through auto rickshaws
Audio announcements are done across the city through moving auto rickshaws to generate awareness.
One-on-one talks for vaccine awareness
As and when required, there were also door to door campaigns for one on one talking on vaccines. This ensures all the doubts are cleared, questions answered and people are vaccine ready.
Holographic Projections at popular junctions
The beach road is a very popular place. Plans are to have Holographic projections, that is projecting light with a message, flashing between 6.30-9 in evening. The governor would be invited to address during the launch. The implementation of this needs funds.
Involving film personalities is also in the plans. When they talk about vaccines, there is higher acceptance
There has been a positive response to these multipronged approaches of using various innovative mass communication methods. The administration has reported more and more people coming forward to get vaccinated.
FXBIS believes in using the collaborative approach. It always works in partnership with the government. In Puducherry, all the mass awareness programmes have involved various government departments, including the governor herself. This helps to avoid duplication, consolidate efforts and above all, it has helped in giving one pointed message to the community, making it easy for them to consume and accept the messages, particularly on vaccine where there is a lot of hesitation.