Empowering Girls as Lifelong Immunization Advocacy Champions
Danya Arif, Subhash Chandir, and Qadeer Baig of IRD Global in Singapore will develop and implement a school-based initiative in Pakistan to train adolescent girls to provide practical immunization information to parents and caregivers and thereby increase vaccination coverage in peri-urban areas. Poor compliance with routine immunization schedules puts children at risk of vaccine-preventable disease; some of the most vulnerable are urban-slum communities where traditional methods to increase vaccination uptake have failed. As an alternative approach, they propose to create a strong community force of adolescent girls, trained in leadership and communication skills and educated on basic immunization facts, to counsel mothers in their community on the importance of timely vaccination and provide them with practical information on clinic locations and schedules. The girls will also be equipped to identify never- and under-vaccinated children. They will pilot test their approach in ten schools in two peri-urban slums in Karachi city with 500 female students in grades eight to ten. They predict that mothers will be more likely to accept and act on information delivered by these girls as accepted members of their community, and training the girls as adolescents will have a sustainable impact: as they themselves become mothers they will be lifelong advocates for childhood immunization.