Case Study Two: HIV/AIDS Education – South Western Africa

Key Stakeholders and their Higher Level Interests:

  • Team Leaders of a Non-Governmental Organisation
    • Successful track record of introducing similar health awareness programmes throughout the region
    • Individual NGO leaders and team members are well-respected by the local chiefs and the communities they represent
    • Becoming saddened and very frustrated by lack of progress with these groups
  • Community Leaders
    • Male chiefs of each village
    • Absolute refusal to allow HIV/Aids awareness programmes despite knowing the likely consequences of inaction
    • Strong Christian beliefs leading to embarrassment and silence on issues of sexual health
    • History of distrust of outsiders
    • Senior women have shown some willingness to be involved in these programmes, but have been unable to get agreement from their male leaders
  • Other Stakeholders – who would have to be part of any eventual settlement
    • Church leaders
    • Senior women
    • Youth groups
    • The Khuta (a senior traditional leader whose guidance and ruling would normally be sought on issues such as land and family disputes)
    • Police

This impasse was located in the border area between the Caprivi Region of north-eastern Namibia, southern Zambia and northern Botswana. A group of remote communities were refusing to allow any form of HIV/Aids awareness campaign, despite an exceptionally high infection rate throughout the area and a recognition that inaction would lead to the population becoming unsustainable.

Our role in this example was to facilitate the senior team leaders of Ian Facilitating in Africathe NGO through the Conflict Code Breaker process to help them revise their future strategy. The three-day meeting was emotionally charged because of the apparent illogicality of the communities’ position (why would you block an initiative that would actually safeguard your population?) combined with the fact that the NGO leaders had already done their utmost to get support for the initiatives, and had finally run out of options.

The Outcome:

The meeting started with discussing the theory and benefits of Caprivi Group‘Systems Thinking’ with the Team Leaders. From this base it was possible to introduce the concept of Perceptual Positions Thinking and then the Code Breaker Model as the route to breaking the deadlock. The first step towards getting movement was the recognition that any new approach would need to match the communities’ values structure rather than attempting to impose a ‘rational’, evidence-based argument.

It was recognised that the higher level interests of the community leaders included, among others,

  • The retention of male power and dominance in decision-making
  • Being seen to be ‘right’ in the eyes of God
  • Having an observable penalty with which to threaten the people who were ‘doing wrong’.

The discussion to identify the breakthrough point led to a focus on perceived ‘powerlessness’ (it’s God’s will), holding on to male superiority and compliance with their interpretation of religious teaching. The final conclusion was an agreement to intervene directly with the chiefs and the Khuta.  In summary, this strategy would be a systemic one, requiring high degrees of rapport, skill and patience.

  •  Meetings with the chiefs and the Khuta to focus on how, when the ‘dreadful Day of Judgement before God’ comes, they will explain their personal responsibility for the decision to refuse to prevent the extinction of God’s children
  • Meeting with the senior women to advise them of a likely change of heart by the men and that, to make this sustainable, they will need to commend them for their undoubted wisdom in changing their minds. This also enabled a subsequent initiative to help the older women in advising their daughters on their right to say “no”.
  • Meetings with religious leaders to highlight their opportunity to take an even stronger role in the regional culture by overtly supporting this interpretation of what God would require
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