STAR Action Research Project (COMIC RELIEF)
With funding from Comic Relief, the two year pilot project was sanctioned starting in October 2004, with the aim of piloting the innovative approach (STAR) to individual and community empowerment in the face of HIV/AIDS, rigorously designing, implementing and documenting practical work in Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda, within an action research framework, so as to generate learning of relevance for practitioners across Africa. PAMOJA’s overarching role in all this is to provide training and technical support to this action research project.
Following the numerous years of working with Reflect and Stepping stones in various countries, ActionAid International has accumulated a wealth of experience that informed the decision to fuse the two dynamic participatory approaches into an innovative approach called STAR. STAR promises greater empowerment of communities in the face of HIV/AIDS. As a strategic partner and a key promoter of participatory approaches, PAMOJA has played a central role in the development of STAR and still hold a key position in coordinating the pilot project that is planned to run in three countries of Africa (Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda).
Expected results from the AR Project
- Enhanced ability of women and girls to voice their concerns and make health related decisions affecting their lives, whether in the household or the public sphere .
- Strengthened literacy and other communication skills of vulnerable people – Literacy applied to enhance better living (in reference to HIV/AIDS)
- Improved access and use of information and services on HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
- Constructive engagement in the design and implementation of policies (of local and national governments and NGOs) tied to the fight against HIV/AIDS. (Enhanced community influence on the policies and practices of public agencies).
- Reduced incidences of prejudice and discrimination, despair and stigma around HIV/AIDS - Increase acceptance of PLWA within the society in general and in their respective communities in particular.
- Improved communities’ provision of care and support for local people living with HIV/AIDS and orphaned children.
- Strengthened organisations of positive people - their influence on HIV related practices and procedure being indispensable.
- Other outcomes that have been identified by past Reflect or Stepping Stones practice (e.g. changes in school enrolment, wider health practices, productivity, income generation, participation, social behaviors, relations with external agencies etc).
The STAR EC Project
The Societies Tackling AIDS through Rights (STAR) is aimed at enabling women & girls, poor & excluded people and People Living With AIDS (PLWHA) to reflect, plan and act on HIV and AIDS integrating with development agendas. Hence, it mainstreams HIV/AIDS by exploring and connecting the pandemic with community life and endeavor such as livelihood, agriculture, education, health and culture.
STAR further employs a Human Rights Based approach to HIV/AIDS in relation to poor & excluded people, women and People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), putting power analysis at the centre of the reflection and action. STAR also facilitates wider citizens’ involvement in HIV and AIDS prevention, access to care and treatment and other services through the creation and strengthening of critical mass.
The approach uses literacy of STAR circle members for better communication and advocacy. By doing so, it is believed that the human rights perspective of the STAR approach optimizes the impact of existing HIV and AIDS interventions on services and commodities that are aimed at preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. All this is geared towards ensuring a sustained and scaled up HIV and AIDS response.
The STAR European Union funded project aims at contributing to the prevention and mitigation of HIV and AIDS among women and girls, and boys and men. Its objective is to develop an integrated and comprehensive approach to individual and community empowerment in the face of HIV and AIDS in 280 communities covering direct beneficiaries of 84000 poor & excluded people and women & girls, and millions of indirect beneficiaries across Africa, Asia and Latin America by the end of 2007.
Specifically, the range of activities includes STAR circle meetings, training, action points implementation, and mobilization of local actors to facilitate the process of empowering the social group with particular attention on women and children to overcome the challenges of HIV/AIDS in their lives, and to create an enabling environment to demand rights, services and participation in policy, legislation and programme activities. The activities are implemented for 12 semesters. read more
In 2003, PAMOJA managed to secure funding from the Common Wealth Education Fund (CEF UK) based on the niche that PAMOJA is known to have with participatory processes, which would render significant contribution to the attainment of the CEF goals. The strong links to National forums of grassroots practitioners in most of the CEF countries in Africa, put PAMOJA in a unique position to be able to take forward two essential areas of the wider Regional proposal prepared by ANCEFA (Africa Network campaign for Education For All):
- Strategic advocacy work on adult literacy and the maintenance of the whole EFA vision
- Practical capacity building to strengthen the accountability of schools to local parents/ communities (a key step in improving quality and access)
Capacity building is one of the key strategies, PAMOJA undertakes to build a resource base of practitioners who will are central in propagating the approach by sharing and using skills acquired; ensuring that communities are more involved in the management of schools and also able to monitor school budgets and expenditures for the proper functioning of those schools.
The use of Reflect can stimulate School Management Committee members, as individuals and as a group to respond to the present public demand for good school governance.
Governance is the process of decision-making, by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Reflect, encourages meaningful participation of people in decision making through communication and analysis. The use of Reflect for school governance will therefore to enable:
- Parents to analyze their school environment so as to identify school problems discuss them and come up with practical solutions. The Reflect approach enables parents to come up with positive actions that will lead to change within their school. Reflect encourages collective and individual reflection and action.
- Parents to plan, control and monitor use of school resources available. The involvement of parents and community leaders, either directly or through SMCs, PTAs & CBOs, in the key management processes is the only way through which local communities will be empowered to demand for accountability and transparency.
- Parents to deal with power relations. By doing a detailed local analysis and organizing parents to address the local governance issues, Reflect build the confidence, skills of parents and community to effectively challenge the local power structure and demand for change both within the school and education structures.
- Parents to communicate and improves their relationship within the school and beyond. The acquisition of literacy skills [reading/numeracy/writing, speaking and listening] by parents through Reflect is vital for accessing information, communication and documenting their experiences and perspectives. It is through communication that the voices of parents can be understood by government agencies or other public authorities.
- Parents to have and or ensure some democratic space: The use of a wide range of participatory tools within Reflect process helps create an open or democratic environment in which everyone’s voice is given equal weight. Visualization approaches are of particular importance for understanding governance issues.
Linking ICTs to Sustainable Livelihoods Through the Reflect Approach
The Reflect/ICT project was started in 2003 under the auspices of L&E a local NGO. Unlike other pilot projects elsewhere AAU could not implement the Uganda project because AAU is not directing implementing community activities. So AAU transferred the project to a partner organisation that was implementing the Reflect methodology in this case L&E based in Kabarole District in Western Uganda. Through this arrangement the Reflect/ICT project is directly under L&E with AAU being a partner. Much of the policies used to govern the project are those of AAU. AAU controls all project funds. AAU has a memorandum of understanding with L&E that stipulates the details of the relationship between L&E and AAU.
L&E as a local NGO started operations in 1998 and its main funder is AAU. Its major activities are in the areas of adult education, health and agriculture. Its operations are located within a sub county –Bukuuku of Kabarole District in western Uganda. Initially they operated 12 reflect circles and have two staff- Programme Manager and a Field officer.
In order to streamline the operations of the project the two organizations established a steering committee that handles all administrative issues of running the project. PAMOJA was also incorporated into the steering committee because of the central role it plays in promoting the use of the Reflect methodology.
The main goal of this project was to develop a model by which ICT for development projects can make meaningful changes to the lives and livelihoods of poor and marginalised people, through focusing on their capacity to communicate and participate in decision-making.
The project’s focus was on the use of the Reflect methodology and principles to facilitate a participatory planning process whereby poor and marginalised people could influence the choice and implementation of ICTs in their community.
The project had a purpose to ensure that more appropriate means of communication and sources of information are available to poor people by:
- Creating the environment and opportunities whereby marginalized people can make meaningful choices about ICTs available to them
- Developing the capacity of individuals and organizations in poor communities to engage in debates and activities around ICTs
- Develop and disseminate understanding of poor people’s perspectives on ICT ‘solutions’ as a basis for policy and programme work
The basis of the whole project was the participatory analysis and planning process with groups at village level, the results of which fed directly into planning for phase two – implementation of the communications systems. This involved:
- Training trainers and facilitators at pilot level. The resource sheets were used to train facilitators to manage the analysis and planning process at village level. This involved many exercises to facilitate analysis of the value of information, what makes information useful, the need for communication/ documentation of local knowledge, current communication practices, gaps and opportunities and planning a communications system.
- Facilitating the analysis of information needs, practices and gaps at village circle level in order to arrive at clear, appropriate needs based plans for communications systems in each of the three pilot areas.
- Compiling and finalising the communications system plans in each of the three pilots, and submitting these to DFID as the proposal for phase two of the project.