Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Turning Point in the Zebra Project

By Claire Hawksworth

I wasn’t excited at the prospect of reducing noise pollution in La Paz. I thought, is this really the UK Government’s money well spent? Surely I can be doing something more worthwhile?

However, this is a project that has already transformed the city’s roads in the last 13 years. Whilst walking around La Paz it is easy to see peoples’ affinity with the zebras. From the drivers to little children, all raise a smile at their enthusiasm and charisma. They have a loveable aura about them whilst commanding respect and ultimately reducing noise pollution significantly within La Paz.

As a project we wanted to diversify into looking at social issues within Bolivian culture. The latest educational module that we created was the first aimed at older children of 16-18 years old. We wanted to consider the issues within society that contribute to noise pollution to create discussion and promote engagement. The current problem is that pedestrians flag down public transport to stop in the middle of the road and people alight at inconvenient places. This causes traffic immediately behind to stop abruptly and use their horn. The module focussed on factors such as laziness, lack of respect and ‘Bolivian time’. We posed questions such as ‘if people were more punctual would the city’s roads be calmer?’ and ‘if drivers and pedestrians had more respect for each other would there be as many traffic jams that ultimately lead to noise pollution?’. We delivered the module to students at Technico Uruguay secondary school. It was satisfying to see how engaged the students were and the debate that our module created.

These photos show us delivering our educational module with the zebras at Technico Uruguay secondary school. The first photo shows a group of students completing our starter activity where they had to order cards with numerous things such as ‘traffic order’, ‘drivers’ and ‘education’ into two columns; those that contribute to noise pollution and those that don’t. The second photo shows the same class listening to a group give feedback.

Despite the Zebra project producing brilliant results in La Paz, as a team we felt we could have more of an impact. Thanks to the hard work of our team leader, Eugenia, we have secured new partners; Focapaci and Centro de Informacion Juvenil Heroes del Pacifico. A team of ICS volunteers currently work with Focapaci, building greenhouses to allow people to grow vegetables and create a sustainable source of income. We have partnered with APRODAMH, a group of producers, and we have meetings with others groups in the pipeline. Centro de Informacion Juvenil Heroes del Pacifico is a youth centre in the deprived area of Max Parades. The sexual health education given in schools here is basic and as the subject is taboo there are a lot of social problems surrounding alcohol abuse, sexual health and teenage pregnancies. Here, 14% of all female Bolivian teenagers are either mothers or pregnant. 

To tackle this issue we are creating a series of workshops to promote sexual health practices and dispel common myths regarding types of contraception and STIs. The audiences vary greatly and we wanted to create two modules with different aims and perspectives. After a preliminary meeting with the women of APRODAMH in El Alto it became clear that the focus of the module should be on how to talk to their children about sexual issues, and illnesses that affect women such as human papilloma virus (HPV) and breast cancer. This contrasts with the adolescent module that concentrates on alcohol and sex and different types of contraception. The need for this distinction became apparent after reading research that had been conducted by CIDEM into the target audiences of health centres and reasons for attending. We put together a preliminary version and were privileged to discuss our ideas and gain valuable feedback from the National Director of Sexual Health Education, Carolina Aliaga. 

The women of APRODAMH at our meeting in El Alto. This was the preliminary meeting when we went to propose our idea of sexual health workshops and gain feedback on what would be most useful.

Another exciting opportunity has presented itself to the zebra project. A contact of Eugenia is an English teacher in the mining town of Santa Rosa Lima, 10 hours north of La Paz in North Yungas. She runs sessions in a youth centre there and has invited us to go and give workshops on sexual health, drugs, violence and human rights. If all goes to plan we will leave on the 20th of November and return on Sunday 23rd. 600 young people attend the centre and the prospect of having such a big outreach for our transformative lessons has got the team very excited.

Our workload has dramatically increased in a very short space of time as we now have multiple workshops on sexual health, drugs, violence and human rights to produce. This is in addition to the routine work of the zebra project; creating workshops for the 20 zebras that come to the office every Tuesday morning for 2 hours, and delivering our educational module on noise pollution. 

I feel that the project has taken off and completely changed since the start of our cohort. It is an exciting time for the project as we shake off our image of solely concentrating on noise pollution. We have branched out into social issues that truly affect families in Bolivia, and this work makes a real contribution to sustainably changing the world we live in. 

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