- Girls' education was a key message as a caravan toured the towns and villages of rural Djibouti to promote the national development programme. Djiboutian women were informed about national development goals, but also on sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS and the widespread abuse of khat.
The Djiboutian government gladly supported the initiative by the UN development agency UNDP and other UN agencies to reach the country's women and girls. The so-called "Caravan on Human Development" included 40 people, UNDP vehicles, two buses and a truck with camping gear.
- In towns and villages, caravan members met with students and teachers in the morning to discuss human development, reports Fozia Ahmed of UNDP Djibouti. They encouraged students to make presentations at an evening performance and also met with students from each school in the community selected as local development ambassadors.
According to the UN agency, the caravan distributed notebooks with a list of the UN's so-called 'Millennium Development Goals' on the cover and comic books illustrating each goal. Reporters with the caravan covered its activities on radio and television and in the press in local languages.
- In the afternoon, caravan members held workshops with community groups, reports Ms Ahmed. They performed dramatic sketches and songs about the goals for the whole community in the evening, and students joined in with their plays and poems. Nearly half of Djiboutians are illiterate, three quarters of them women, and the performances were a way to inform them about the Millennium Development Goals.
The caravan introduced the theme of the National Human Development Report (NHDR) - "Gender as a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals" - that UNDP and Djiboutian experts are preparing. Feedback from communities will help the report reflect local concerns. Students could enter a drawing competition for its cover illustration.
The report, due later this spring, deals with sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS and abuse of khat, a local plant that is a stimulant, the UN development agency says today. Performers had further resorted to humour to convey messages on some issues, such as using condoms to protect against HIV/AIDS.
Dramatisation of the links between the goals, especially the importance of women's literacy in reducing poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, and the spread of HIV/AIDS brought strong reactions, reports Ms Ahmed from Djibouti. "The only way to break the vicious circle of illiteracy, poverty and disease is for all girls and boys to go to school," many women had told her.
Nearly half of Djiboutians live in poverty and 10 percent are extremely poor, unable to afford adequate food. Only a third of children - and only 28 percent of girls - are enrolled in school, and about one in three households lack access to clean water and sanitation. Some communities are far from schools, and students need dormitories in order to attend them. School fees pose a barrier to many families.
- The great range of feedback the caravan received from communities shows the expanding possibilities that realisation of the Millennium Development Goals can bring to all people, comments Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the UNDP chief representative in Djibouti. "The Caravan has shown us that a participatory approach is the best way to shed light on the human dimensions of poverty and seek ways of ending it."
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