CAIRO: After the concept of ‘communication for development’ proved effective in terms of building awareness and combating social problems, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is partnering with Ahram Canadian University (ACU) to launch a Communication for Development (C4D) capacity building course.
“The C4D capacity building course comes at a critical time, when Egypt is witnessing accelerated economic growth while going through a transitional phase moving towards the category of middle income countries; a heads-on investment in national capacities is therefore instrumental at this time,” said Erma Manoncourt, UNICEF representative in Egypt.
The course is a two-year program which aims at providing 100 participants with tools and techniques to analyze complex behavioral issues, harmful social norms and practices and recommend communication solutions.
Each class should include at least 25 people working at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 25 governmental officials, 25 social sciences and/or health graduates and 25 communication professionals.
C4D can be defined as an evidence-based process to promote positive and measurable individual behavior and social changes that are integral to development programs, policy advocacy, humanitarian work and the creation of a culture that respects and helps realize human rights.
“The dramatic reduction of deaths caused by child dehydration and the eradication of Polio in Egypt and other countries are a few examples of the tremendous potential that C4D has to achieve positive change,” explained Dean of the Faculty of Mass Communications at ACU, Farag Elkamel.
Manoncourt described the partnership between UNICEF and ACU as having a common goal as with their other collaborations, “to widen the window of opportunity for local talent, to unleash their potentials and strengthen their capacities by providing them with technical and soft skills that will enable them to take the lead in the future of Egypt’s development.”
She noted that having a critical mass that is equipped with technical theoretical knowledge and practical training will contribute to the overall success of different national developmental programs.
The content of the course, which is offered in Arabic, includes topics such as combating rumors and misinformation, community mobilization skills, communication crisis management and media relations and the use of new media in development programs.
Communication for Development has proven to be successful in previous campaigns UNICEF has taken part in. For example, the campaigns to combat Female Genital Mutilation and Polio have been successful and showed how communication is a vital catalyst for development.
“We want to break the spiral of silence on sensitive and taboo subjects,” said Chief of Communication and Development at UNICEF, Sahar Hegazi, citing how the media broke the silence around Female Genital Mutilation. “We want to influence policies and decision-makers,” she added.
The communication for development programs aim at raising awareness and changing behavior. “National and international organizations are not the only key players in this domain; every person, parent, neighbor, teacher, journalist, politician, businessman, child and every young man and girl can contribute towards better childhoods by simply changing attitudes and behaviors that undermine children’s rights,” said Manoncourt.
In their previous campaigns, UNICEF has received the support of religious leaders, such as the late head of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, and other key figures in society including veteran actress Karima Mokhtar and actor Khaled Aboul Naga.
A celebration was held at the premises of Al Ahram Organization for the launch of the program with leading media figures attending.
Chairman of Al Ahram Organization, Abdel Moneim Saeed, was one of the attendees, who said that this partnership is part of Al Ahram’s overall mission towards Egypt’s development.
“All of the entities at Al Ahram Organization, whether it’s the newspaper, the magazines or ACU, are working towards this,” he said.