Don’t just tick the box, talk to the right groups to solve period poverty

Being female and having some experience in handling a public relations (PR) campaign related to period poverty, I was thrilled to hear the new health minister’s announcement that the issue was on her radar.

Regrettably, that all went south when she said that her plan was to start a programme to dispense sanitary napkins at her ministry; first at the minister’s office, and then, throughout the ministry.

Mind boggling!

Several groups have since commented on this choice of a pilot study, and I thought I’d chime in too, with suggestions that the minister might consider.

I make it a point to tell interns and new hires that if they are ever unsure of anything, be it office routines or clients, or any work-related matter, that they should always ask. Asking questions is the best way to learn, especially if one is new to a role, or to an organisation.

Please don’t get me wrong; a pilot study is certainly the right way to go. However, the trial sample must be as close as possible to the intended audience, particularly in terms of demographics and psychographics.

This is pretty basic; ask any marketeer, communications, or PR specialist.

As a next step, perhaps Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa may consider working closely with one of the non-governmental organisations involved in period poverty that she claims to have had dealings with in the past.

Seek their guidance and expertise to organise a dialogue in a school within a B40 community and be a fly on the wall during this dialogue to get real, raw insights into the issue.

Ideas to address period poverty ought to have input from all the relevant stakeholders, and this includes the affected segment of the population and interest groups.

Generally, I’d advise all Cabinet ministers to “turun padang” regularly. Some ministers are better at this than others.

The current Cabinet has a great advantage in that being relatively new and unknown to the average man-on-the-street, they could, if they so desired, go incognito (this means sans entourage and designer wear), and none would be the wiser.

What a coveted position to be in. Imagine getting genuine unadulterated direct input and feedback. In the PR and communications industry, we consider this the jackpot.

One of the best things about social media is that it has helped interest groups organise themselves and reach target audiences effectively. So, any Cabinet minister, no matter the portfolio, can easily find their relevant interest groups at their fingertips. No excuses.

Given the pervasiveness of social media, all ministries should work with organised interest groups. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. But of course, the ministries will then be required to do actual work and affect real change and reform (instead of paying lip service) because once it’s on social media, the public will hold them to it.

If they do their job right, they will be heroes, and earn the trust and respect of the rakyat.

Collaborating with existing interest groups is the best way to reach groups and communities that are in need.

Less red tape and more action, exactly where it’s needed.

This will help the new administration live up to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s promise that “none should be marginalised under my administration”.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

Tagged with: