Dr. V.Balaji, Director, OMCAR Foundation,Pattukkottai
OMCAR Foundation has been undertaking several environmental awareness programmes. Our way of coveying message to the community is not similar between two schools or between the two villages. I am here sharing my view here.
Awareness, usually this word is thought about talking something new to public who don’t be familiar with it. And also frequently, wherever awareness programmes are conducted, there is a question of how much people will hear your message and how it can create a change to the target people. There is need to a great deal of focus on the tactics, as much as we all realize the value of creating awareness. I here wish to share some of my thoughts on the concepts and field tactics for the NGO field workers with reference to coastal villages.
I think, it is the time to consider the way of creating awareness to the community, in addition to the conventional way of street plays, dances and pamphlets. Whatever effort we took for awareness programmes, the communication will reach successfully to more people, when we demonstrate it, in a way of enthusiasm to imply that “We are well prepared and understand the problem, to solve it, if the target community support it”. It just should not be to express a disconnected piece of information on an issue in a day. It should be an introduction of forthcoming chain of changes that an NGO wish to bring to the community or environment of a region.
Human, one of the superior organisms in the earth is also coming under the same category like other existing fauna, when we talk about the function of basic sense of hearing and vision. Technically, our goal is to extend our effort to reach our message to the ear and eyes of the human beings. In addition to this: life style, education status, culture, time, seasons, involvement of field staffs, relationship between audience’s daily life and our message, number, age and gender group of the community decides that how much effectively we carry out an awareness programme.
Psychologically, emotional way of conveying a message is working well, which obviously the politicians use to survive, which can be used in an optimistic technique to support our objective.
Now, come to the selection of target group. Instead of creating awareness to the whole community of a particular region, it is wise to select a particular age group in a gender or both based on your project goal. This will reduce the diffusion of funds and energy and we can concentrate that that particular group for follow up activities and to communicate our concept to other groups.
Here, when we select the age groups, we also have to remember the nature of our project and weather we need the change immediately or slowly in a long tem basis in a community. Children are fit for the second category and youths are fit for the first one. There should be a caution approach to youths of the community, and even a small misunderstanding can cause the disruption of the programme.
The sense of any awareness programme without the continuous, long vision follow up activities will be vanished from the people’s mind, even in the next day. We can say that the awareness programmes are the introduction to the unknown audiences to know about it, and we have to help them or we have to make them to help themselves through continuous follow up activities. In every place there are some persons, who already know about the issue to a certain extent, and he usually stands with several questions to ask. Convince them, they are valuable tools, if you fail to answer their questions, it would be a problem in future.
Exaggeration of issues in awareness programmes is also required on occasion, but should be carefully handled or it would deviate what we come to tell. For example when I talk about the conservation of endangered shark species in Tamil Nadu coast to the children, I have to carefully talk about the shark attacks, but when I talk about the turtles there should be some exaggeration based on the scientific publications to link the turtles to health of the ocean and our daily life.
Time also an important factor of controlling the awareness programmes. For example, when a group of people has a plan to create awareness about the sanitation issues along the coast of Tamil Nadu in the particular fixed dates. They have to travel and visit at least 5 villages in a day from dawn to dusk. The energy of team will be wasted in a less crowd morning programmes instead of well crowded evenings. The fact is, fishermen will be free in evenings, after their routine morning work. It is wise to conduct the programmes in selected villages.
Are seasons also important? Yes of course, it plays a significant role for the long distance programmes. Plan your programmes only in post monsoon and summer when they are free and not in premonsoon and monsoon. The fishing community has to prepare in premonsoon, and earn in monsoon.
Organizing the people for a programme seems to be a common work of a field staff, but not. It needs oratory skill and flexibility in approach with the nerves of the present situation of a village. When you enter a fisherman village, first meet the village head, then come to self help groups, youth groups (may an actors fans club) and finally go to the village school. It’s enough to have a considerable audience to hear your message. But, it is wise to consider weather that particular group is necessary for your programme. Sometimes, children who don’t understand your issues can start to play during your programme. This is true that we should aware before planning an awareness programme.