Staff Reporter

For story telling programmes for removing stigma against HIV affected

Nagercoil: Story telling programme on removing stigma and discrimination against HIV affected persons has been creating wide impact among school children, self-help group women, HIV positive cases and Non Government Organisations in Kanyakumari District.

The Chief Educational Officer, C. Ponniah, was so impressed by the programmes that he had sent circulars to all schools to allot an hour a week for story telling programmes in the schools.

During the internal evaluation conducted recently, it was known that the 36 school managements had not only appreciated the programme but asked for its continuation in their schools. He was of the view that the entire district would be soon declared a stigma-free district if adequate support was given by the Government. He expressed satisfaction over launching of a web site exclusively for the programme by an NGO, which would be an example to influence all the schools in Tamil Nadu having 60.79 lakh school children through the story telling programme by way of web competitions and web seminars.

Vasantham Trust, a local NGO, had been involved in reducing stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS through story telling programs in 36 schools in Kanyakumari district since December 1998, supported by National AIDS Control Society (NACO) through United Nations Development Programme. The 360 members of the story telling clubs had, till date, developed 1500 stories on stigma reduction based on real life case studies and 850 essays and articles with scientific information, thanks to the training given to them by experts, particularly writers and journalists.

These stories and articles had been printed in a book form that had been the basic resource material to educate the school children through these sessions. Thus more than 18,500 school children had already been sensitised.The programme had been reviving the declining traditional culture of storytelling by grandmothers and mothers to children. Besides, 6000 women from 300 self-help groups had been sensitised and evaluated of the issues related to stigma and discrimination. The local NGOs were organising village-level SHG meetings, where the members of the story telling clubs conducted such sessions.

The women were being given booklets containing stories and articles to help disseminate information in the villages. The notable impact was the acceptance of the HIV positive cases by the school children and the village women. Till date, 30 HIV positive women participated in the social interaction programmes in schools and villages organised by Vasantham Trust. Sharing meals with them, offering cash gifts, physical contact with them had created a positive change in the mental attitude of HIV positive women. More than 50 new schools had approached the NGO to implement this programme in their schools, said the trust director, C. Chandra Kala.