In 2008 Rising Voices and Open Society Institute's Health Media Initiative awarded micro-grants to six health-focused citizen media outreach projects. The selection was made from 110 proposals from health activists and organizations based in over 50 different countries.
One of the grantees was the AZUR Development organization's Aids Right project from Brazzaville, Congo which trained communication officers of local AIDS organizations in digital story telling, podcasting, and the creation of blogs to document the stigma and discrimination of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Congo. Juhie Bhatia posted an introduction in Rising Voices about the project:
It is hoped that these documented stories will be used as a tool for advocacy and education, helping to promote the rights of HIV-positive people. Currently 79,000 people (or 3.5 percent of all adults) are living with HIV in Congo, and 6,400 people in the country died of AIDS last year.
What Sylvie Niombo, the project's leader, think of the challenges, notes Bhatia:
Nyombo says Most of the Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire workshop participants discovered blogs for the first time. In addition to documenting stories, they are also using blogging to publish information about their organizations, since most don't have Web sites. However, she adds that Internet access is usually only available in Internet cafés. Since these cafés cost at least $1 US an hour, the communication officers are only able to go once or twice a week.
Read some of the reports highlighted in another post of Bhatia, this one in particular:
Davy Herman Malanda posts another account of discrimination, sharing the story of Bernadette (a pseudonym), a young woman who is a second-hand clothing vendor at the Tié-Tié market in Pointe-Noire. She is the breadwinner of the family, but this changes when she discovers she's HIV positive.
Her colleagues and clients from the market are informed that she is HIV-positive. Very few clients come from now on to buy at Bernadette’s table. Her life becomes difficult, and she has difficulty in making ends meet.
At Pointe-Noire, Congo, a HIV-positive married man and father was released from prison when the police became aware of his HIV status. Read more stories here.
To mark the World aids day, AIDS Rights Congo project focused their stories on a group of women who are vulnerable to sexual violence and often neglected in the fight against HIV/AIDS — those with disabilities. The project had also used blogging and other citizen media as tools to fight violence against women. Read more here and here.
This project is one of the examples of effective use of Rising Voices micro-grant to empower health activists with the use of new media & ICT in order to spread awareness about important issues to local communities.