Bhubaneswar, September 11: The ‘Peer Leaders’ or ‘Pragati Sathis’ – young boys and girls from slums of Bhubaneswar – who are working on frontlines by creating awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic, will play a major role in spearheading the message among the public during the upcoming festive season in the capital city.
The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has conducted the ‘Sampark Abhiyan’ programme for the Peer Leaders today at BMC Kalyan Mandap, Saheed Nagar where the young boys and girls spoke about their experiences and got an insight from officials on how to further strengthen the ongoing awareness activities in different slums.
Addressing the outreach programme, BMC Additional Commissioner, Smt. Parul Patawari, said: “The role of Peer Leaders in Bhubaneswar slums is absolutely praiseworthy and commendable, especially in creating awareness among the slum-dwellers about COVID-19 guidelines.”
“The Peer Leaders can play a very important role in creating awareness during the upcoming festivals such as Durga Puja, Diwali, among others when large number of people congregate at one place. They can also click photos through their mobile phones if they see anyone violates COVID-19 rules and immediately report it to BMC officials for necessary action,” Patawari added.
Besides, she also interacted with Peer Leaders and asked them to know what they understand of some frequently used words such as “Social Distancing”, “Co-morbidities”, “Hand Hygiene”, “Proper wearing of Masks” etc.
Deepanjali Swain, a Peer Leader, from Press Colony slum in the city, shares her experiences. “Initially, people living in slums were not responding well to our words. After we visited house to house and conducted continuous and repeated awareness activities, people are now following the COVID-19 rules and regulations.”
At present, as many as 120 Peer Leaders are carrying out awareness activities as COVID Sachetaks at 100 slums in Bhubaneswar. The Peer Leaders are going house to house to make people aware of basic hand hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing, putting up quarantine stickers, downloading COVID Sachetaks and symptoms etc.
The BMC is conducting training programmes for the Peer Leaders with the help of doctors and healthcare professionals to make them understand the pandemic in a better way before they visit slums to create awareness. Besides, training programmes, workshops and orientations are being conducted time to time to enhance their knowledge.
Besides, Shri Subrat Panda, Joint Secretary, Water Resources department and Senior Supervising Officer, COVID-19, BMC also spoke and praised Peer Leaders for their efforts and contributions to the society during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shri Ansuman Rath, Zonal Deputy Commissioner, South-East Zone of BMC, who coordinated the programme, thanked the Peer Leaders for their noble job.
Notably, the Peer Leaders (Pragati Sathis) are part of the Socially Smart Project which is a collaborative initiative of BMC, Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and has been operational since 2017. The project focuses on young people and has trained over 120 young boys and girls in three phases of life skill education. These youths work in close collaboration with different stakeholders to address issues and challenges primarily of slums with focus on issues of young and vulnerable people. The project is currently being implemented at the level of 100 slums of the Temple City
Similarly, the ‘Sampark Abhiyan’ programmes were held at Community Centre, Sastri Nagar and at Loyala School under South-West and North Zones of the Civic Body respectively.