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The Language of Water

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Implemented by Arca-MED, the communications branch of Arca Consulting, this film project involved the production of 4 documentarie

Communication Strategies: 

The 4 documentaries, each 52 minutes in length, explore water issues in 4 different sectors: water and peace, water conservation, water and health, and water and ecosystems. The contents were developed through a participatory field research process that involved interviews with personnel, acquisition and analysis of relevant documentation, and analysis of emblematic cases and success stories of individuals and communities. There were few formal interviews, since the strategy was to tell the stories with a creative approach by illuminating the daily life and activities of relevant community members. Themes highlighted in the stories concerning water include: innovation; changes in behaviour and practices; cultivations able to withstand water scarcity; examples of community participation or community-based initiatives; and examples of networking, south-south cooperation, and pooling of experience.

The films were produced through co-production agreements with television stations in each of the countries concerned. They have obtained, in exchange, the right to broadcast all 4 documentaries on their channels. The intended audience is within the Arabic speaking region, within the European region, and - internationally - via BBC World or the Arab television channels.

Click here to access, in PDF format, a dossier describing the films and the process in more detail.

Development Issues: 

Environment, Natural Resource Management, Peace, Health, Rights.

Key Points: 

Arca-MED explains that the various models developed by scientists in order to predict the effects of climate change indicate that the rise in temperatures and the change in rainfall patterns will produce more severe effects in some areas, including the Mediterranean. One of the consequences is the "intensification" of the water cycle - meaning that rainfall will be concentrated in fewer, severe storms, giving less time for the soil to absorb and store humidity. At the same time, the amount of precipitation in the Mediterranean will diminish. In conclusion, there will be less rain in absolute terms, and, of that rain, a larger share will be lost because of torrential runoff. All of this will happen in a region where water shortage is a centuries-old problem. "We can tell the story of conflicts about water, of how it affects life in the cities, on the farms and the steppe [per Wikipedia: a biome region characterised by grassland plain without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes]. Of how it affects and is affected by the quality of the environment, and the importance of conserving forests and even desert shrubs to save water resources. Of how cultures and society have developed different norms on its use and ingenious ways to make the best of it. Of the commitment of modern society, and of its failures."

Arca-MED continues: "Across our cultural and social differences, we share the awareness that water is a pressing issue, and of the need to develop synergies to address it. From being the subject of competition and even conflict, water can and must become a cross-cutting theme of cooperation, bridging our differences. Our objective is to use the universal language of water as a means to give birth to debate and meeting of minds and cultures, across the borders of religion, politics, and social layers, aiming at the development of practical, implementable solutions."

See video

Email from Emanuela Gasbarroni to The Communication Initiative on May 24 2010; and Arca-MED website, May 27 2010.

The Human Faces of Corruption

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Edouard Al-Dahdah
Publication Date
September 16, 2008

Empowering Women's Voices on Reproductive Health in the Media; and Taking Stock of Reproductive Health and the Media

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Eric Zuehlke
Publication Date
December 1, 2008

Population Reference Bureau (PRB)


The PRB enewsletter on December 18 2008; and email from Eric Zuehlke to The Communication Initiative on July 22 2009.

Religious Leaders Become Advocates for Reproductive Health

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Publication Date
June 15, 2007

Email from Pathfinder Communications to The Communication Initiative, June 27 2007.

"Safe Age of Marriage" in Yemen: Fostering Change in Social Norms

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A Case Study

Leah Sawalha Freij
Publication Date
June 1, 2010

Extending Service Delivery (ESD) Project

This brief describes how the Extending Service Delivery (ESD) Project, in partnership with the Basic Health Services (BHS) Project in Yemen and the Yemeni Women's Union (YWU), implemented the "Safe Age of Marriage" programme as part of Yemen's national effort to reduce maternal and neonatal mortalities. The pilot programme drew on voluntary community educators to communicate messages about ending marriage before the age of 18 and improving the poor health and social outcomes of young girls by changing entrenched social/gender norms and by stressing the importance of girls' education.


Safe Age of Marriage Programme

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The "Safe Age of Marriage" programme is part of Yemen's national effort to reduce maternal and neonatal mortalities. Launched in December 2008 by the Extending Service Delivery (ESD) Project, in partnership with the Basic Health Services (BHS) Project in Yemen and the Yemeni Women's Union (YWU), the 1-year pilot programme aimed to contribute toward ending marriage before the age of 18 and improving poor health and social outcomes of young girls by changing entrenched social/gender norms and communicating the importance of girls' education.

Communication Strategies: 

This initiative is based on interpersonal communication. To begin, organisers selected and trained 20 male and 20 female volunteer community educators, including religious leaders and nurse midwives. In February 2009, the community educators attended a 6-day participatory training workshop to conduct outreach educational activities with families in their communities. Using interactive training, the workshop challenged participants to re-examine socio-cultural and religious norms and practices related to child marriage. In October 2009, the community educators attended a 4-day refresher training to strengthen their facilitation skills and expand their knowledge on Islam's perspectives on child marriage, education, and family planning, as well as the emotional/psychological consequences of child marriage.

Each community educator was responsible for holding a minimum of 4 awareness-raising sessions per month, using a range of techniques, such as discussions, role-plays, storytelling, poetry recitations, and debates. The sessions were held in schools, literacy classes, health centres, mosques, YWU branches, and during other social gatherings. The community educators also organised and held monthly fairs, where BHS's mobile clinic was present to provide family planning, reproductive health, and maternal and child health services to mothers and children. Some health fairs featured speakers such as the governor, representatives from the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Ministry of Education, and religious leaders. In addition, community educators set up information booths and showed a local movie about a Yemeni girl who was married off at a young age and died in labour. The movie was followed by a discussion facilitated by the community educators on the consequences of child marriage.

They were also involved in development and distribution of: 4 newsletters, a brochure, and 3 radio messages (aired 3 times daily for 4 months).

The strategy of awards and recognition is demonstrated in the following activities:

  • The community educators worked with the YWU coordinators to engage 9- to 15-year-old students to develop and perform school plays on the health and social consequences of early marriage and to launch a magazine competition between 20 schools. Students submitted stories, poems, and caricatures on the social and health consequences of child marriage and the importance of completing high school education. Copies of the winning magazine were distributed to community members.
  • The community educators were involved in the selection of 10 model families who not only delayed the marriage of their daughters but ensured that they completed 12th grade. These families were awarded a plaque for their role during the end-of-project ceremony officiated by the Amran governor.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs in Amran asked all religious leaders to disseminate messages on the health and social consequences of child marriage in their Friday sermons. Meanwhile, community members began mobilising to build a girls' school and hire female teachers, nominating a female community educator to become a school principal.

Development Issues: 

Girls, Education, Reproductive Health, Family Planning, Maternal and Neonatal Health.

Key Points: 

In Yemen, 47% of girls are married before the age of 17.

Through technical assistance from ESD and BHS, the pilot project is being scaled up in 2 Amran districts of Thula and Raydah. YWU is gradually assuming management of project activities. In addition, YWU has been actively lobbying with Yemeni government for a change in Yemeni law that would prohibit the marriage of girls under age 17.

Partner Text: 

ESD, BHS, and YWU. ESD is managed by Pathfinder International in partnership with IntraHealth International, Management Sciences for Health, and Meridian Group International, Inc. Additional technical assistance is provided by Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, the Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health, and Save the Children. Both ESD and BHS are funded by the United States Agency for International Development

IMF Youth Video Contest

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This International Monetary Fund (IMF) contest invites young people across the Middle East, Pakistan, and North Africa to directly engage with the IMF on the issues of greatest concern to them by maki

Deadline Date
Deadline Date: 
September 30, 2010

Time to Deliver on Maternal Health and Family Planning Best Practices: White Ribbon Alliances in Asia and the Middle East Make it Happen

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Publication Date
July 30, 2009

This 12-page publication examines White Ribbon Alliances (WRAs), which have been established across Asia and the Middle East as advocates for evidence-based strategies to reduce maternal mortality.


Email from Rebecca Mbuya-Brown to the Implementing Best Practices (IBP) Initiative Knowledge Gateway on November 21 2009.

Social Marketing for Health: Did It All Begin with Condoms?

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John Davies
Publication Date
January 1, 2009

Email from John Davies to The Communication Initiative on January 27 2009; and John Davies website.

The Role of the Media as Watch-dogs, Agenda-setters and Gatekeepers in Arab States

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Lawrence Pintak
Publication Date
May 16, 2008

Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research, The American University of Cairo


Pippa Norris's website on the Roles in Media Conference, accessed on November 25 2008.

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