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UNESCO: out-of school youth and other risk populations

1. Radio drama for HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and drug use preventive education

Under this project component, UNESCO successfully developed a series of educational radio programs and audio tapes and CDs aimed at the prevention of HIV/AIDS, as part of a linked triad of problems:  HIV/AIDS risk behaviors, trafficking of girls and women, and drug abuse among highland minorities. The activities took place in Thailand (for the Lahu), People's Republic of China (for the Jingpo) and Lao PDR (for the Hmong).

The primary programming format was a ‘soap opera', using themes relevant to the lives of highland girls and young women, and highlighting the implications of the choices that they have to make.  Research over the last five years has shown that while many girls and women are willing or eager to come to Thailand, few are sufficiently aware of the dangers that they may face here or how to protect themselves against them -- in particular, the dangers and sources of exposure to HIV/AIDS.  The aim of the project was to use drama and music to arm girls with information, and allow them to profit from the experience of others.  Based upon the ‘real life' stories of actual women who have migrated (as well as those who have not), these dramatizations explored the decisions facing young minority women today, and the implications of those decisions.

In each of the three countries involved, UNESCO worked with local research institutions, broadcasting entities and ethnic minority authors and communities to develop soap operas, in minority languages. The programs have been attractive and relevant to young people, especially girls and young women, in the border areas - those most vulnerable to both sexual trafficking and HIV/AIDS.  These efforts happened in close cooperation with Radio Thailand Chiang Mai, Yunnan People's Broadcasting Station, and Lao National Radio; and with the New Life Center Foundation in Chiang Mai, the Development Institute for Tradition and Environment in Kunming, Yunnan, and the Institute for Cultural Research in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The programs were developed using the UNESCO Methodology for developing culturally appropriate IEC materials. Visit the web site of the UNESCO Bangkok Culture Unit to read more about the UNESCO Methodology.

The project confirmed that using this methodology is essential if the programs are to be culturally as well as linguistically acceptable to the audience. Tapes of both the music and the programs were made available for copying and distribution - partly with additional funds raised from other donors. The radio shows reached thousands of marginalized ethnic minority people. Testing of the programs, as well as initial audience feed-back, showed that the programs, and the messages they contain, were extremely well received.  The project (not simply the end-products) has also proved to be an unexpectedly effective advocacy vehicle with governments at both the national and local levels for addressing the special vulnerabilities and needs of minorities.

2. Clearinghouse on preventive HIV/AIDS education for the GMS 

Established under the 2003-2004 ADB project, the Clearinghouse represented the key database and information support component of the project. It identified and used existing IEC resources as well as developed new databases and information-communication networks to collect, process, disseminate, and share information and materials on HIV/AIDS. The work of the Clearinghouse was based on an extensive needs assessment undertaken for project partners.

In 2003, the UNESCO Bangkok Clearinghouse joined the Global UNESCO HIV/AIDS Clearing House together with the UNESCO International Institute of Educational Planning, the UNESCO International Bureau for Education, UNESCO Dakar and UNESCO Harare.

The Clearinghouse's HIV/AIDS web site was uploaded in October 2003. In the period 2003-2004, the web site has regularly been updated. In November 2007, the Clearinghouse web site was migrated to its current location using the Typo3 content management system.

Educational HIV/AIDS materials and general materials on HIV/AIDS have been collected, indexed and put in two databases: the HIV/AIDS teaching/learning materials database and the HIV/AIDS bibliographic database. Additionally, the Web-based search query form of two databases has also been redesigned with the provision of a new index feature. The databases can be accessed here. A searchable database of full-text e-documents was also established. It is accessible here.

A classification system was designed and implemented that will help put in order the wealth of materials and information in this area through an indexing system. A thesaurus has also been compiled which will serve as basis for describing the information and materials catalogued and indexed, which will in turn enable them to be searched and retrieved much easier, faster and more efficiently.

Other Clearinghouse activities include the setting up of an online listserv under UNAIDS D-groups in order to systematize and facilitate the dissemination of its outputs and of lessons learned as well as to generate interactive exchange of information online among network members. 

Seven issues of the UNESCO Bangkok HIV/AIDS Clearinghouse Update were prepared and circulated online among the listserv members and to other partners included in the email lists during the project period. Its contents include new additions to the Clearinghouse collection, new e-documents, and references to other online databases, announcements of new websites and HIV/AIDS events of the month.

The Calendar of HIV/AIDS Related Events was initiated and produced every three months by the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education. The Calendar aims to update and share information about forthcoming events related to HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region among UNESCO colleagues and UNAIDS cosponsors and key partners, including governments, donor agencies, NGOs, media, educational, cultural and scientific institutions, and private sector partners.

The first Bulletin for Preventive Education in the Greater Mekong Subregion entitled HIV/AIDS in the GMS was produced in May 2004. Contents of the Bulletin include project component introductions and profiles, project reviews, GMS country watch, website overviews, cross-border HIV/AIDS related issues in the GMS, feature articles, what's new in HIV/AIDS and education, Who's who in HIV/AIDS in the GMS, review and announcement of IEC materials, website reviews, abstracts of several selected GMS publications, and the Calendar of HIV/AIDS-related events in the region. 

3. The use of GIS to support this project 

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based technology for producing, organizing, and analyzing spatial information. It includes database management, mapping, image processing and statistical analysis tools that allow users to see statistical data analysed in relation to topographic and geographic features as well as administrative boundaries over time.

In the context of this HIV/AIDS project, GIS was used as a map production resource for the provision of base maps and customized data maps to support project planning, co-ordination of field work, project reporting and assessment of interventions. In this way, GIS provided visual, dynamic and continually updated statistical and spatial analysis of the project areas and peoples. This included analysis of past and current socio-economic data, results of field work undertaken to date and environmental data to predict outward migration risk areas and high-risk populations.

GIS mapping was also developed to monitor movements of people over time and identify events that favoured risk behaviours. A GIS mapping plan can function as a geographic calendar, allowing for better tracking of trends and linkages between areas with a high incidence of infection and the factors attracting people to them. In this way, GIS is an efficient tool to develop, manage and monitor project interventions.

With the 2003-2004 ADB-funding, UNESCO implemented two major activities in the GIS component: the establishment of a GIS system for a Thai Government organization, involving training, capacity-building and production of maps; and the production of animated maps representing the evolution of the HIV/AIDS epidemic all over Thailand between 1989 and 2003.

4. Special and interstitial populations

Interstitial populations are populations that are heavily involved in trade, transportation and the flow of information, and therefore link areas across borders. They are linguistically distinct from the majority population, though there is often a high degree of multilingualism. They are different from ‘migrants' since they do not move from one source area to a destination area and stay there, but move continuously back and forth. Therefore, they are rarely reached with effective preventive education messages as they occupy distinct environmental and social ecological niches, bridging both national and ethnic boundaries. 

Previous research undertaken by UNESCO has identified understudied interstitial populations that are key links in trade and communications networks in the upper Mekong region, which may play key roles in the trafficking of girls and women and potentially the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Examples of these groups are Chinese traders in Lao PDR and Thailand, Cambodian and Lao truck drivers in Thailand and China, and sex workers from several countries working in other countries for brief periods of time.

Under the 2003-2004 project, the study of interstitial populations was aimed at designing evidence-based interventions that can ‘catch' these populations at the right place and the right time with HIV preventive information, in a culturally appropriate manner.

This project component focused on a situational analysis and identification of appropriate entry points for direct interventions among selected sites. 

Specific activities that have occurred with ADB funding under this component include:

  1. The concepts of ‘temporal geographics' and a ‘perpetual calendar', mapping interstitial populations, their movements, motives and activities in time and space, was further explored. A model for doing this mapping has been developed;
  2. Research on the Haw Chinese in Northern Thailand was conducted by the head of the Institute for Sociology, Yunnan Academy for Social Sciences.

Under separate funding, other activities were developed, such as:

  1. Additional funding from the UN Inter-Agency Project on the Trafficking of Women and Children in the Mekong Sub-region was obtained to translate into English a manuscript on cross-border movement and migration written by researchers at the Institute of Sociology, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences.
  2. An analytical review of the situation in Northern Lao PDR was undertaken with a view to developing a research agenda, should funding become available.