Aawaz II: Integrating Behaviour Change And Community Engagement On Policy And Programming

Aawaz II community leaders and civil society experts shared their experiences for community engagement to drive behaviour change.

Aawaz II: Integrating Behaviour Change And Community Engagement On Policy And Programming

Aawaz II programme – Peace and Justice Network, organised a Provincial Consultation on the discourse of prioritising and integrating grassroot level community engagement and behaviour change intercessions to effective legislation, public policy planning, efficient implementation and establishing mechanisms for services delivery related to gender-based violence, child marriage and social cohesion and tolerance.

This consultation provided an opportunity to the local leaders and activists of Aawaz II community leaders and civil society experts to share their experiences and recommendations for community engagement to drive behaviour change aligned with policies, laws and services. 

The consultation was supposed to contribute to chalking out valid recommendations on effective strategic planning for community engagement, behaviour change necessary for the impactful implementation of the public policies.

Representatives from Women Development Department, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Social Welfare Department, Women Protection Authority, Police Department, National Commission on Human Rights (Punjab Chapter), Punjab Safe City Authority, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Punjab, Experts, civil society and community representatives from 10 districts of Punjab has joined the event. The event was chaired by Ms. Sumaira Samad, Secretary Women Development Department, Punjab. 

Dr. Yasmin Zaidi – Team Lead of Aawaz II programme, spoke on the community engagement strategies of the programme and also deliberated on the community structures including Village Forums, District Forums and Aawaz Aagahi Centres and Provincial Forums constituted under the Aawaz II programme.

She further shared on the people centric approach of the programme where local communities are on the driving seat of the behaviour change efforts ensuring meaningful citizen-state engagement. She further added that Aawaz II programme execution has extended to 37 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab during last four years to address the issues of gender-based violence, child marriages, and promote social cohesion.

Muzammil Yar Khan from Social Welfare Punjab appreciated the Aawaz II programme and its efforts to highlight public voice on different areas and bridging between the citizen-state engagement processes. He emphasised that community engagement and inclusivity is the key to success to public policy planning.

Mavarhan Khan, AIG Gender Crimes acknowledged and emphasised the roles of community viewpoint and community engagement in policy planning and execution to lead the processes and procedures more transparent, responsive, accountable and accepted. He shared that the police department is continuously shifting policies paradigm from orthodox policing styles to more community centric, progressive and modern policing models. 

Khawar Mumtaz, prominent civil society expert and Chairperson Aawaz Provincial Forum reiterated that the government should acknowledge and comprehend the importance of behaviour change for the effective and impactful execution and promulgation of policies. There is tremendous potential and worth of public engagement in dissemination of information among the masses to cultivate informed attitudinal and behavioural progression to build the confidence in provisions and access to services. 

Sumaira Samad, Secretary Women Development Department Punjab, said that a balance between demand side and supply side is necessary while articulating policies and legislations. Communities’ engagement and participation compliments the demand side whereas the planning and elaboration of strategies for effective implementation may be supported with the informed acceptance, ownership and access by the people.

Government departments face a shortage of funds but have grassroot level presence, structures and capacity where civil society organisation and programmes like Aawaz II can facilitate the departments and institutions in ensuring meaningful engagement and participation of marginalised groups. The government needs to guarantee that the voices of all groups are heard.

Syed Raza Ali, Executive Director of Peace and Justice Network accentuated that this is the right time when new elected representatives are going to parliament, civil society and the departmental authorities can collaborate to raise the demand of forming community engagement policies for all departments.  

Mr. Arshad Mahmood – Deputy Team Lead of Aawaz II, identified some of the existing laws, policies and structures for effective community engagement platforms for behaviour change. He emphasised the importance and impact of community engagement and behaviour change for the prevention of GBV and child marriage and promotion of social cohesion and the rights of vulnerable groups. This can be done with resource allocation by the government for community engagement and behaviour change concluded Mr. Mahmood. 

Aawaz II community members from districts Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Hafizabad, Okara, Toba Tek Sing, Sargodha, Khanewal, Vehari, Sahiwal and Bahawalnagar participated in the event and a number of actions were requested by the community such as the assorted representation of vulnerable, marginalised and excluded groups in Government Committees and other formal structures. 

Aawaz II Programme works with local communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to promote the rights of children, women, youth, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups to work towards a more inclusive, tolerant and peaceful Pakistan. Aawaz II is a programme managed by the British Council.