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Transforming Sexual and Reproductive Health Learning with Comics

Using comics to teach displaced adolescents in Jordan about their sexual and reproductive health rights.

Photo of Benjamin Dix
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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

Displaced adolescent women face both increased sexual and reproductive vulnerability and disruption to accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights education. There's a lack of collaboration between emergency education, sexual and reproductive health specialists and tech-savvy communication experts. Why Comics? (WC) combines both, with a wide network, excellent geographical reach and pedagogical innovations, to educate adolescent women around;
Health: sexual and reproductive health, feminine hygiene
Rights: UN Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), prevention of gender based violence (e.g. FGC).

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

What different cultural sensitivities will we need to take into consideration?

What are the greatest educational needs around sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Will there be any resistance against educating young women around sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Explain Your Idea

WC use arts-based educational resources to transform learning, tailored both for self-directed and teacher-facilitated learning. We provide ethnographic literary comics embedded with interactive multimedia information. All our materials and guidance notes are free to access online, download or print. Arts integration in education incorporates cognitive activities shown to improve long-term memory (Rinne et al 2011) and critical thinking (Abrami et al 2008). Students identify with the true stories ensuring relevance and providing emotional support as they learn. WC has been highly successful reaching over 27,000 schools in 30 countries. Our innovation is to adapt this format for camps (Za’atari in Jordan) with refugee and displaced adolescent women, working with PositiveNegatives and Coventry University. Current humanitarian needs and massive on-going displacements produce a greater need for emergency health and reproductive education, but a gap exists in appropriate resources linking sensitive yet vital topics and mainstream remedial education. The comic format is inclusive as it is accessible for any age, language, literacy level or learning ability. We provide specific resources for young women to allow them to make informed decisions around their sexual and reproductive health and rights. WC has pilot tested in over 600 schools in 26 countries, feedback is hugely positive and teachers report great enthusiasm for it. All our work is available on our website and social media

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

We will target a lack of available education around sexual and reproductive health and rights for displaced adolescents in Zaatari camp. We transform vital research into an accessible, digestible format that is both engaging and informative to read.
WC bridges the link between specialists and tech-savvy communication specialists ensuring that valuable content around sexual and reproductive health and rights is delivered in a forward thinking and efficient method using our online learning platform.
By supplying clear and engaging information on our online platform we ensure that young displaced women will have the necessary information to make confident informed decisions around their own sexual and reproductive health and rights.

How is your idea unique?

Comics engage young people more than books, fitting around camp duties for self-directed or group study, with/out a teacher or formal learning space. Our comics are based on ethnographic research, using individual stories to convey wider issues. Students identify with the comics, embedding psychosocial learning impact. Our asset-based methodology is culturally and contextually relevant and can be applied to a range of emergencies.

For teachers we provide lesson plans and guidance notes. WC supplies both remedial and contextual materials, with low equipment, expenses or expertise requirements. Resources can be viewed online/offline, on a projector or as a hard copy, complementing existing camp education, and are easy to take-up for NGOs, educators and health providers. Comics are understood by children of mixed abilities and ages. WC adheres to international teaching standards from INEE, UNICEF and Save the Children.

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

How will we effectively monitor access, take-up and impact?

What are the most culturally sensitive methods to teach adolescent women sensitive topics and how will we continually adapt this to different contexts?

When creating resources for other emergency settings how will we efficiently connect with new partner organisations for distribution?

When printing comics due to lack of internet/computer access how will we provide contextual information?

Who are your end users?

The main beneficiaries are refugee and displaced female adolescents aged 10-14 who attend school irregularly/not at all. Young women suffer massively in conflict: increased vulnerability in displacement and evacuations, sexual violence, reduced physical and psychosocial coping skills, and increased stigma. We adopt a ‘whole person education’ as it benefits a person both socially and emotionally. Education reduces the impact of interruptions caused by crisis; WC enhances knowledge around sexual and reproductive health and rights. Other beneficiaries are teachers (and family members). Stress and lack of resources make teaching difficult and our downloadable/printable materials address this.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Jordan

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

  • Prolonged displacement

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

Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan houses around 82,000 Syrian refugees, and is a highly insecure environment for adolescents to develop. Crime, violent demonstrations and general instability all threaten young people’s education, compounded by site-specific additional risks. Raising awareness of sexual and reproductive health and rights is a contentious issue in this setting. The established nature of the camp ensures child friendly spaces, for both trialling and M&E.

What is your organization's name?

Why Comics? Educational Charity

Tell us more about you.

WC? is a UK registered charity 1172791, based at SOAS, Uni of London and is the charitable arm of PositiveNegatives, a non-profit organisation that produce literary comics, animations and podcasts around social and human rights issues for our partner international academic, humanitarian and art organisations. We are a 90% female led team all with relevant Masters Degrees. Collectively we have over 30 years experience working in international development, communications, art and design.

Organizational Characteristics

  • International/global organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Still in planning phase and does not exist yet

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

Our organisation is housed by SOAS University of London, our office is located in Bloomsbury, central London.

What is your organizational status?

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

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Website

http://www.whycomics.org
http://www.positivenegatives.org

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

The feedback from our prototype lesson plan for informal education settings was to simplify the lesson plan structure for teachers. Consulting with experts led us to include information more tailored to the adolescents’ context. We will conduct product development focus groups with women in Za’atari camp so that our resources are designed by the user for the user. IDEO feedback indicated the value of a more targeted age-range (our research showed 10-14 years had most impact). Our resources will initially be available in English and Arabic, and as the project develops they will be translated and developed to suit different contexts and cultures. Our stakeholders will include those in influential roles in addition to teachers and we will monitor delivery impact depending on role. We will ensure we signpost and develop relationships with the appropriate partners to deliver sexual and reproductive health services.

Who will implement this idea?

PositiveNegatives and WC commission a diverse range of artists and animators internationally with suitable gender and cultural / geographical backgrounds (like Syrians). We will partner will local stakeholders and sector specialists. In Za’atari, educators within UNHCR and UNICEF and camp managers will disseminate the comics and incorporate the material into existing education provisions. UN-partner INGOs will support implementation and reach. Cov Uni and WC will be responsible for data collection, M&E, impact monitoring and analysing behavioural and awareness change, based around bi-annual visits to the camp.

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?

Throughout WC inspiration and ideation phase the process is participant led. Our educational comics are created through ethnographic testimony, representing the opinions of those who our comics aim to target. We will conduct extensive research in our target settings, initially running focus groups with women in Za’atari camp. These product development groups will ensure that our resources are designed for the user by the user. Ideation and changes to the strategy or processes are an integral part of the Why Comics? design phase. Due to the small size of the Why Comics? team decisions are made collectively with final sign off from our Director Dr Benjamin Dix who developed Why Comics?’ asset-based methodology.

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?

In addition to the disruption to education for displaced children, contextual factors compound their vulnerabilities. UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) seek to increase civilians’ security in conflict, raise awareness of gendered impacts of war and address children’s specific needs like protection, but there are no procedures for conveying such information to children. At a 2016 workshop in Cairo on International Humanitarian Law and sexual violence in conflicts, the need for education was emphasised. Camp sanitation and health are fraught with risks, and girls lack sensitive information on feminine hygiene that doesn’t conflict with religious and cultural values.

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?

By Dec 2019, we plan a demonstrable impact for displaced adolescents in the area of sexual and reproductive health in Za’atari, and improved remedial education provision. By mid-2021 we will be replicating this model elsewhere, incorporating the education needs of non-static refugees.
Q: After testing with static refugees, how will we meet the needs of migrating refugees and maintain our high quality, tailored educational resources? How will M&E be conducted on transient populations?

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

Why Comics? is built on creativity and innovation and uses an asset-based methodology. We aim to collaborate with and learn from organisations with similar goals. Amplify encouraged us to start with a challenge, to be open to new ideas, to put our ideas into action and to iterate in reality while keeping those we are designing for at the forefront. This model allows us to develop while applying for funding: through learning tools, connections with other organisations and expert advice.

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?

  • Less than 6 months

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

  • No paid, full-time staff

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

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country(ies) in which we plan to implement our idea.

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?

  • Product Design

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