Karachi, 22 November 2019 - 10,000 teenage girls gathered at Karachi’s PAF museum this week to learn leadership skills, receive training on basic healthcare and become ambassadors for immunisation as a major typhoid vaccination campaign continues in the city.
The ‘Ab Meri Bari Hai!’ (Now It’s My Turn!) event, run by the Kiran Sitara programme, brought together girls from 58 schools in the city, as well as representatives from government, WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The girls were also addressed by Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest, Hajra Khan, Captain of the Pakistan Women’s football team, and Aamina Sheikh, actress and ambassador for the Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education.
A vaccination session for the new Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV) took place after the event, part of a major campaign that aims to vaccinate over 10 million children in Sindh province in two weeks to combat an extensively drug resistant typhoid outbreak.
“When I learned about the Kiran Sitara program, I immediately wanted to get involved and sought out permission from my family. Though it was challenging, I am proud that I am now capable enough to help people in my community,” said Sana Imran, a Kiran Sitara girl. “It makes me extremely happy to know that because of me, people have been able to get treatment for their illnesses.”
“This event has given me confidence that I do something with my life and I can be a leader,” said Noor Saba, 15, another Kiran Sitara girl. “I got inspired by the female football player to think that girls can go outside alone and can do everything that they want to do.”
The Kiran Sitara program, run and funded by Interactive Research and Development (IRD) in collaboration with the government of Pakistan with financial contributions from the Global Fund and Gavi, teaches adolescent health and leadership skills such as confidence, empathy and perseverance, combined with basic healthcare directives. The program also aims to empower these young girls to take ownership and control of health-related concerns, equip them with the skills to become community leaders and enable them to link their communities to appropriate care.
“Our approach recognizes the extraordinary power of the adolescent girl and helps create an engaged, informed and empowered force of adolescent girls,” said Dr. Subhash Chandir, Director for Maternal & Child Health at IRD. “We are leveraging the potential of Kiran Sitaras to be lifelong community advocates for immunisation and to realise our goal of achieving equity and universal immunization coverage in Pakistan, leaving no one behind.”
Since 2016, Kiran Sitara girls have screened and referred over one million people for tuberculosis and identified children who have missed out on vital vaccines in their neighbourhoods, linking them to immunisation services.
As a next step of this holistic program, these girls are now being trained to not only provide practical knowledge about vaccination services to caregivers, but also identify zero dose and under-immunised children on a larger scale, especially within unreached and vulnerable communities, and organise vaccination camps to link these high-risk children to vaccination services.
“There has been extraordinary progress in boosting global vaccine coverage over the past two decades, however millions of children worldwide are still missing out on lifesaving vaccines,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The Kiran Sitara programme offers a great model to reach these missing millions, empowering girls to become agents of change in their own communities. By encouraging families to vaccinate their children, these girls are saving lives and helping to build a better future for Karachi and for Pakistan.”
The TCV vaccination campaign is a pre-cursor to the introduction of this new, improved vaccine into Pakistan’s routine immunisation programme – the first country in the world to do so. As part of the provincial TCV Campaign, Kiran Sitaras across Karachi will help mobilise and create awareness of typhoid in their communities.
The Kiran Sitara Health and Leadership program is implemented in collaboration with the Sindh School Education and Literacy Department and empowers young school-going girls across Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukker, Badin, Bhong, Lahore and Peshawar to become agents of change in their communities.