“Never before have so many couples shared their positive experience of contraceptive use in public and on camera!” gush Peer Educators for the Urban Health Initiative, as they tirelessly escort couples to “Happy Dampatti” contest enrollment stalls in Gorakhpur, India.
Agra, Aligarh and Gorakhpur are cities located in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India and focus of the Urban Health Initiative (UHI). UHI aims to increase the use of modern family planning methods among the urban poor in India. The “Happy Dampatti” contest (which translates from Hindi to “search for the happy couple”) is one of UHI’s high profile programs.
“Happy Dampatti” seeks to spotlight couples who model positive spousal communication and use modern methods of family planning. These role models are selected and celebrated in front of their peers at live events in their slum communities and on the local media.
Buoyed by the positive response in Agra and Aligarh, “Happy Dampatti” started with a bang in Gorakhpur. In three slum clusters across the city, comprising a population of approximately 170,000 individuals, Peer Educators trained by UHI made house-to-house visits to inform couples about the contest and help them complete enrollment forms. In total, nearly 4,000 couples turned in their enrollment forms at a counseling camp, where they received on-the-spot free counseling on a variety of family planning methods and referrals to nearby services. Thousands of couples told their stories, though only a few were selected for a shortlist of role model candidates. They were interviewed on video and judged by an independent panel of judges to select the winners. The winning couples will be announced at live finale events that will draw large audiences from the surrounding communities.
To celebrate World Population Day (July 11, 2012), the first of the “Happy Dampatti” finale events will take place in Gorakhpur, which will include special guests, such as city and health officials, clinic managers and staff from the UHI project. The audience will be entertained and educated by interactive games and drama performance, and the winners of the contest will be announced.
Finale events will also take place in Gorakhpur on July 13 and 15, and later in September. The stories of the winning couples will be shared as UHI and their communities celebrate their commitment to family planning on World Population Day, and every day!