Talking about condoms, talking about rape

Over the last few days I came across a few things having to do with communicating with beneficiaries.

The first is a 4 minute video I saw on TED about selling condoms in Congo.

Amy Lockwood has a point of course. NGO advocacy messages tend to be boring and stilted. And the fact that the people who are paying the bill (i.e. donors) are not the people who are supposed to like the product (i.e. beneficiaries) certainly makes this worse. While I agree with her point that we have to tailor our communication better to the needs, expectations and – yes – desires of the people whom we want to reach, I find it very hard to imagine that UNICEF or UNAIDS would ever distribute “Rough Rider” condoms with scantily clad women on the package. After all, we are also trying to promote respect for women. But there has to be a middle ground and we should try harder to find it.

The second example is a sign I came across in Sanniquellie, Liberia, where I’m currently based.  The purpose of this sign is to tell women where they can go for help if they have been raped.

The title of this sign is “SGBV Referral Pathway”. Ouch.

Sign: "SGBV Referral Pathway"

Somehow I doubt that a communications person was involved in this ...

Not only does it use an acronym (SGBV = Sexual Gender based Violence) that is extremely technical and not explained anywhere on the sign, it also follows that acronym by two words that are not easily understood.

Considering that Liberia is a country where only half of all adults can read at all, this was probably not a very wise choice. This is a sign that is hard to understand even if you can read, but the images are completely incomprehensible if you can’t.  While certainly well intentioned, I doubt that this sign will help anyone.

Last but not least a short video from “Info as Aid” that I came across this week. It’s not directed at beneficiaries but illustrates why it is important to talk to them and to give them the information they need using a language they understand.

What are your thoughts?