3 February 2011
Speak confidently but without aggression. Avoid offensive and outdated terms. Use gestures to ease language barriers. In Dushanbe 24-25 January twenty two participants from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan improved their communication skills to help protect labour migrants from HIV infection.Labour migrants often lack language skills and social ties in their countries of destination; they do not have easy access to information on how to protect their own health. Many are afraid to speak to health officials because they fear repercussions from their employers, loss of work or even deportation. For these reasons information campaigns targeting labour migrants have become an important element of HIV prevention in Central Asia.
The training seminar “Effective Communication Skills for Raising Awareness on HIV and AIDS among Migrants as a Vulnerable Group” was organized by the National Commission for UNESCO in the Republic of Tajikistan under the auspices of UNESCO Almaty. Financing was provided by UNESCO Moscow as part of the UNAIDS Unified Budget and Workplan (UBW) project.
Dr. Karomatullo Olimov, Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO in the Republic of Tajikistan, opened the training, which gathered approximately 35 participants, invited guest speakers and media. Trainees included representatives of government agencies, NGOs and international organizations working on HIV prevention among labour migrants.
Participants learned valuable techniques for communicating with migrants on HIV and AIDS related issues. They also received tips on how to engage the media in their work. The importance of using correct, non-stigmatizing terminology was stressed throughout the training. “If we are not careful to use correct and positive terms in our own work, then we cannot expect the media and the public at large to use these terms,” noted international communications trainer Marina Maximova.
A unique feature of the training was the active participation of labour migrants themselves. Three Tajik labour migrants who work in The Russian Federation shared their experiences and added a real life perspective to the training.
When participants toured the Tajikistan Republican AIDS Center as part of the training, one labour migrant volunteered to be tested for HIV on the spot. “It was so easy, anonymous and completely free. The people here are very kind and open. I will tell my friends about it – they trust me and will listen to my advice.”
Kanykey Azimova, director of a migrant assistance project for an NGO in Kyrgyzstan, appreciated the session on writing press releases. “We try to publicize our work, but we don’t know how to make our events attractive to the media. We need to learn to write interesting headlines and make the media understand that what we do is newsworthy!”
Based on the success of the Dushanbe training, UNESCO plans to hold a similar activity on HIV and AIDS awareness among labour migrants in Kyrgyzstan in mid-2011.