Community Comics News Boards installed in ten Vijayawada urban slums for residents to speak and dialogue about health issues

Second comics engagement workshop in the city draws out the “activist artist” in community members. 

People living in ten urban slums of Vijayawada have created Community Comics News Boards in their habitat to dialogue and debate on health-related problems and solutions, a first of its kind in India to promote issue-based dialogue among the people. Residents have started expressing issues and solutions through the medium of grassroots comics and storytelling, displayed on the news board every week. These community news boards are being installed in strategic areas for more visibility to the residents and visitors in the slums.

The best part is that the comics stories displayed on the news board are not drawn by some artists but by the people from these communities themselves who have now started viewing themselves as health activist artists.

This forum for public exchange has been provided by The George Institute for Global Health India, also implementing project UDAY supported by the HCL foundation to improve the out-reach health facilities for the urban poor. Free general health camps, eye check-ups, providing free medicines and spectacles are conducted regularly in the slums to increase health care access to the physically and economically vulnerable groups in the community. 

Through these camps, the at risk population are being screened and referred to the near-by government health care facility for lab tests and treatment. The screening involves testing people for chronic diseases as diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, partial/complete blindness, cataract, tuberculosis and acute disease and infectious diseases like malaria, dengue, typhoid and upper respiratory diseases.

The project takes a participatory approach as part of which community members actively discuss topics related to quality health care, health care services, sanitation, personal hygiene, clean neighbourhood, safe drinking water and food, environment protection. The community comics news boards provides them a platform to talk about the issues in their slums and suitable solutions to improve their living conditions.

To motivate community members to participate in further improving their health care, the George Institute conducted a follow up three-day comics workshop in collaboration with World Comics India. Sharad Sharma of World Comics India, who as the main resource person for the workshop, introduced this creative medium to the urban poor for expressing their issues, solutions and experiences in their slums.

The workshop was open to individuals of all age groups, irrespective of gender or education as drawing is something everyone enjoys and has fun while doing so. They see entirely different method to talk about their issues within and outside the community. The first day of the workshop lifted the spirits of the participants who shared their experiences on health, environment and basic facilities besides their day-to-day living conditions. They were then guided to write these experiences and thoughts into a narrative format.

On the second day of the workshop, there was a brilliant exchange of ideas on how to draw different cartoons to translate the story into a visual form. The stories were based on the issues in the slums expressed by the participants through a medium of cartoons.

The outcome from the first such workshop has also been compiled into a book form and will soon be made available to larger community to understand their health related problems. On the final day of the workshop, the comics stories will be made into a wall poster and will be showcased in the form of an exhibition.