Faith leaders from MP focus on spreading awareness against discrimination stemming from COVID-19 pandemic fear
Bhopal/IBNS: Madhya Pradesh based leaders from various faiths came together recently to spread awareness against the stigma and discrimination prevalent in society owing to an irrational fear of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Webinar was organized by Sphere India, in partnership with UNICEF, WHO, Spandan, NGO of Bhopal, USAID and World Vision India.
Vikrant Mahajan, CEO, of Sphere India said, "In these testing times, the role of faith-based organizations, civil society and religious leaders is vital in bringing communities together."
Michael Juma, Chief UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh, said, "The key to the success in anti-stigma and discrimination campaigns is through promotion of correct and appropriate information on COVID-19 in sync with underlying principles of Infection Prevention Control (IPC) and Hygiene Management practices and Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE)."
According to Michael Juma transformative leadership and voices with positive messages are essential ingredients for strengthening social behaviour change critical for demystifying stigma and discrimination attached to COVID-19, with a view to ensure that people at risk, come forward for testing.
Ramona El Hamzaoui, Acting Mission Director for U.S. Agency for International Development in India, said trusted religious and community leaders can play a huge role educating their communities on how to prevent COVID-19 and adhere to Government of India guidelines for staying safe.
Dr. Ritu Chouhan from WHO India stressed upon use of positive vocabulary and said, “There is a need to focus on facts, as it drives away stigma by redirecting people towards authentic information."
Faith based leaders highlighted the importance of supporting government response, and specific actions that could be taken to combat stigma including counselling, support to frontline workers, raising awareness on government advisories, among others.
Anil Soumitra of Spandan said, “It is important to acknowledge religious leaders as a big guiding force, to encourage good practices among the communities and support the government to simplify the technical messaging for common community beneficiaries, by integrating it with religious messages."