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The Hadia Communication Initiative (HCI)-Life Skills through Comics for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

The CHILD aims to use comic books to inform, educate & communicate to adolescents in South Sudan about sexual & reproductive health/rights

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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

There is non-specific behavior change communication (BCC) about adolescent sexual and reproductive health/rights (ASRHR) in South Sudan. In this highly traditional and conservative society, there is little regard to the unique needs of adolescents who require responsive, tailor-made BCC programmes. The lack of these programmes has led to many consequences. Currently, most adolescents have poor knowledge, negative attitudes and bad practices relating to ASRHR. This has led to: low contraceptive use, the highest adolescent birthrates in the world (300 per 1000 livebirths), high incidences of sexually transmitted infections, and gender based violence among others. Inevitably, there is underutilization of the provided healthcare services.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

They are 3. First, is how to engage the parents to participate actively in the discussion of sexual and reproductive health issues with their children through a combination of modern education and the traditional informal education methods? Secondly, how to get buy-in from all government levels to introduce mandatory sexual and reproductive health & rights education in schools? Lastly, is how to sustain knowledge and skills learnt among out-of-school adolescents beyond the project life cycle?

Explain Your Idea

Comic books will be developed in episodes in the thematic area of adolescent sexual and reproductive health & rights. The process will begin with formative research to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of the adolescents. Qualitative research methods like focus group discussions and key informant interviews will be used. Through this research adolescents will get the chance to shape the storyline and characters in the comic book. A behavior change communication strategy will then be developed to reflect desired behavior change. The first drafts of the comic books will be designed and pretested in the target audience for appropriateness before final drawing, texting and painting are done. Together with school authorities in identified schools, Hadia Book clubs will be set up. Through regular club sessions, adolescents will actively interact, learn, and share knowledge, experiences and lessons from the book and their own lives. Trained volunteers & teachers will guide this process using a syllabus. To enhance interactive learning, an activity book will be given to each adolescent to structure the discussion of key topics and to track the lessons learnt. Community dialogues with parents will also be done over the weekends. Throughout this arrangement, behavior change monitoring will be done using surveys and observation. Eventually, a competition will be organized in the form of quiz, debates, art, drama, poetry and other art-forms to also assess the lessons learnt.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

First, comic books are a motivating factor for collective and individual participation therefore easing learning about sexual and reproductive health. Pictures tell any story better than words and adolescents have a natural attraction to comics. Secondly, the visual appeal of comic stories is an advantage since the pictures and text shoulder the burden of the story together while putting a human face on a given subject resulting in an intimate connection between learners and book characters leading to behavior modeling. Lastly, comic books have an intermediary effect to difficult social concepts. Comics can vividly initiate discourse about socio-culturally sensitive topics that would otherwise bring shame and non-compliance.

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique because the Hadia Communication Initiative is the first and only one using comic books to convey relevant messages to adolescents through school clubs in South Sudan. Our strategy is evidence-based through research. It is also life skills-based as recommended by UNICEF/WHO. Though our approach is centered in schools, even out-of-school adolescents will benefit from the shared activities with their in-school counterparts. Most importantly, we have been using this approach successfully on other thematic areas like adolescent peace and conflict resolution. Through this experience, we have built-up a well established technical team composed of researchers, graphic designers, storywriters, social workers and health professionals. We shall draw from the lessons learnt from our past projects based on the same model. We strongly believe that we shall be more successful because we have developed a strong link with schools, some with already established Hadia Book clubs.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

We are not yet sure how the idea of a 24/7 toll free line for inquiries will work. The idea was suggested by the participants during the feedback phase since most adolescents have access to mobile phones. However, toll free lines can be easily abused. In addition, it is still tricky to ensure that school club members maintain regular attendance to club sessions and also fulfill their obligation to correctly inform and teach their out-of-school counterparts as well as family members.

Who are your end users?

In this project, the primary target will be at least 75% of in-schools adolescents (10-19 years) who will receive the comic books and training in school clubs. The secondary target will be out-of-school peers and family members who will be reached-out to by in-school participants and trained volunteers. Beneficiaries shall be in the major towns of South Sudan including those in the Protection of Civilian sites for IDPs. By the end of the project, adolescents (both boys and girls) shall have concrete knowledge and high self-efficacy to seek and utilize different sexual and reproductive health information and services available to them based on informed choice

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • South Sudan

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Other

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

South Sudan is facing a protracted civil war since December 2013. Since then, many people were displaced as IDPs and refugees. Major towns have remained as the calm enclaves. However, the economic crisis has made it difficult especially for adolescents girls to withstand the pressure to engage in transactional sex. However, there is hope for lasting peace through the current efforts to revitalize the peace agreement, the National Dialogue & the deployment of the region protection force in towns.

What is your organization's name?

The Children's Initiative on Learning and Development (The CHILD)

Tell us more about you.

The CHILD is a young people-centered National NGO that is fully registered and operational in South Sudan since 2016. Initially, the precursor group for The CHILD was a loose network of talented creative young artists who were driven by a passion to enhance effective behavior change communication (BCC) to children, adolescents and young people in general through the use of different art media including comic art. The CHILD is a non-partisan and non-profit agency. Our mission is to holistically nurture the young generation in preparation for responsible citizenship. We work in various secondary schools in Juba city. We strongly believe in our team's expertise and experience in the use comics for behavior change communication.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Youth-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Community - 1+ communities within 1 country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Juba, Central Equatoriia
South Sudan

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: Tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.


How has your idea changed based on feedback?

As a result of the feedback. We have dropped the idea of basing on peer educators to having our well trained full-time volunteers to support the teachers in implementing this project. We have also decided to include community outreaches in form of dialogue during the non-school days like weekends. We also added the idea of a 24/7 toll free line to help answer many of the questions that the participants wish to ask anonymously. We have decided to increase the geopraphical scope of the project to all major populations centres in South Sudan (about 10) as well as have both an English and arabic version of the comic book depending on the predominant language in the context. With regard to learning materials, we have added the complete sylabus of all matters related to adolescent sexual and reproductive health in the simplest form, As requested, the comic book shall be in episodes with each episode tackling a single topic related to sexual and reproductive health but iinterconnected

Who will implement this idea?

As The CHILD, our department of Health shall take the lead in implementing this idea. Our network of volunteers in the various project sites shall devote enough time as well as the teachers in the participatin school. The five staff at The CHILD and our volunteers (about 65) spread in the different towns and states of South Sudan shall engage fulltime to train, facilitate, monitor and coordinate the project activities. The teachers shall coordinate and facilitate additional learning. Our parners like Reproductive Health Association of South Sudan shall als support the project through recieving all participants referred to them for more professional clinical and counselling services.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

At The CHILD we believe in total inclusivity. In our leadership structure, we have three directors: The Executive Director (ED), The Director of Programs (DoP) and the Director of Research & Development (DRD). While the ED give general leadership, the DoP holds weekly meeting every Monday with all staff where deliberations and decisions are made regarding all current projects. Everyone is given a chance to have their say. When an issue is so contentious, it is discussed thoroughly and referred to the directors for further action. On the other hand, the DRD holds weekly Friday meetings where staffs suggest new ideas for consideration into current or as new projects. Each new idea is discussed and refined by the author based on the suggestions made. The inclusivity always ensures buy-in.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

INDIVIDUAL LEVEL CHALLENGE: Our end-users are affected by the the worsening economic crisis due to the civil conflict and the inflations. Most of them cannot afford the basic needs like decent meals, conforttable accomodation, healthcare and so on. Therefore on a daily basis they are confronted with the desire to make ends meet through doing some paid work. For the girls the pressure is very high for them to get married or be married off for economic benefits. For the boys juggling between school and work is seemigly the new "normal."
SYSTEM-LEVEL CHALLENGE: The level of state fragility has made it hard for security to be guaranteed to our end-users as they to they daily activities. There is lack of access to social services like healthcare, proper education and transport infrastructure.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2022, we aim to mainstream the teaching of life-skills based sexual and reproductive health education in both formal and informal education in South Sudan through curriculum based learning and other resources like comic books & pamphlets as co-curricular activities
QUESTION: How do we break the social and institutional barriers to lsexual and reproductive health education while enriching the life-skills based curriculum to respond to the dynamic socio-cultural landscape of South Suda

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

Indeed it is "Amplify" model. The open sharing of ideas was so amazing. Unlike other funding models, here we had the chance to interact with like minded people but also to feel the challenge of those who saw things differently. My perspective to many things really changed. The feedback phase was so instrumental is putting the end-users at the center of the idea and our thoughts. it helped us connect more to the participants and eliminated naive assumptions we usually make in project development.

Do you intend to implement your Amplify idea in refugee camps / temporary settlements?

  • We aim to implement our Amplify idea in a refugee camp / temporary settlement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

How many of your organizations’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Between 5-10 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Understanding User and/or Community

Attachments (1)

Hadia The Special Gift .pdf

This is the complete version of the first comic book we made under the Hadia Communication Initiative.


Join the conversation:

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Hi Busiri  and Team,

We’re excited to share feedback and questions with you from a set of experts that are supporting this Challenge.

We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve your idea, whether that’s refining it or adding more context. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process, but all critical information should be in the body of your contribution somewhere.

Some things Experts were excited about:
“The iterative development of the comic books and its testing through sessions with the target audience is a great way to develop collaboratively, test and refine it. - The idea has great potential”
“The bottom up approach and the combination of participation, research and active sessions to change attitude and practice is a fairly dynamic approach.”

Some questions Experts had were:
1) “What would it look like and take to scale outside of Juba? Will language be a barrier? Consider having iterations in English, Arabic and with only illustrations? - This sort of initiative could have a substantial impact but will require a solid engagement strategy developed early on to raise interest among other education providers/stakeholders.”
2) How do you ensure the quality of peer education and safety of participants?
3) How do you tackle delicate or sensitive content?
4) What’s your process for capturing learnings?

Thank you for sharing the important work you are doing.

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit ( for inspiration on crafting strong and compelling stories as well as the recorded Office Hour ( Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - the last day to make changes to your contribution on the OpenIDEO platform is October 26 at 11:30PM PST.

Have questions? Email us at

We look forward to reading more, and thank you for the important work that you are doing!

Photo of Busiri

Thanks so much for the in-depth analysis of our idea and the great questions you have asked. It has taken the team a while to think deep about your questions and we are glad to respond this way.
1. About taking the idea outside Juba Town: we say this will be very possible since in so many other towns and population centres, school structures have relatively been revitalized. This will on mean that we have to be careful with the variations in context especially as we develop the comic books since South Sudan is a very diverse country. Language would not be a big barrier since places where simple English is not use, Arabic is the natural alternative. A comic book with only illustrations would be a great idea but may not suffice well since knowledge about Sexual and reproductive health is critically low in most places. We are afraid that if the pictures are left to shoulder the information burden alone, there may be a lot of room for misinterpretation. We have engaged many of the education providers/stakeholders through our Hadia Peace comic book that is already being implemented in many schools in Juba currently. We are glad to note that the enthusiasm is so high and the combination of ideas we have used here have been welcomed greatly in all the schools. It is important to note that we have already developed a life skills curriculum (together with the various stakeholder) which we are fine-tuning to incorporate a syllabus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
2. We have considered having a network of full-time volunteers from our volunteers program who we shall give refresher trainings in matters related to life skills based sexual and reproductive health education. This ways we shall limit the projects dependence on peer-to-peer education which even the students have attested to be less desirable. The volunteers shall be attached to each school and they shall support Hadia club activities including providing capacity building to teachers. The participants shall be safe especially in school since most schools we work with have guaranteed this. However, for the resistance in home settings, participants we have modified the project to include reach-out to parents right from the start so that the parents understand the goals and objectives of the project straight away.
3. regarding sensitive content, whereas some participants who we interacted with during the previous phase told us to include as much information as we can, the information that may not seem appropriate in pictures shall be put in words. We also decided to include a 24/7 free inquiries hotline to answer anonymous questions from participants.
4. With regard to capturing learning, we shall have both baseline and end line surveys as part of the conventional Monitoring and Evaluation processes of projects in general. However, we also decided to have our activity log bog designed in such a way that participants can record what they have learnt after each club activity. At the end, these activity log books shall be reviewed to tease out the lessons learnt. In a more exciting way, we also decided that at the end of the school term after all the club sessions have been done, participants shall engage in themed competitions in form of quiz, poetry, drama, art, singing, dance and so on. In these competitions, participants will directly or otherwise show how much they have learnt fromt he project activities.

We really believe that based on what we have achieved with comics in Juba schools, this idea shall do wonders with regard to sexual and reproductive health knowledge attitude and practices among adolescents both in school and out -of-school.

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