This past weekend, PINK BENIN went up north to Parakou. We’ve been struggling to get out of Cotonou, and more importantly, get the message out to more women in order to a) start tracking breast cancer cases throughout the country and b) create a force strong enough to pressure the Beninese government into making cancer treatments more accessible to the rural pour.
We’re running the pilot with Peace Corps because they’re well integrated into their communities and are well placed to identify reliable partners. We invited 7 villages to send a Peace Corps Volunteer, a community health worker, and a community radio host to learn about breast cancer. The radio hosts will return to their communities and do short shows and PSAs talking about the importance of early testing. They’ll send the women to their community health workers, who will do a physical screaning and teach women how to self-exam. The Peace Corps Volunteer will act as a coordinator and will organize awareness raising sessions. (more…)
PINK BENIN is a big fan of International Women’s Day. Breast cancer is a marginalized illness in Benin, like many places in the world, because it’s something that primarily affects women. So it’s nice to do work on a day where we don’t have to defend ourselves for primarily working with women (What? We don’t treat prostate cancer? Isn’t that sexist? NO IT IS NOT).
This year, Ivy, a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaganado, invited us to participate in activities she and other volunteers had planned for March 8. We had already been planning on doing screenings and trainings, and so jumped at the chance to blah blah blah win-win partnerships, synergy, etc (aka letting someone else deal with the logistics instead of having to do everything ourselves). Awesome.
Ivy did a fantastic job! The day started out with speeches (oh so many speeches), and then two short awareness raising sessions, one on breast cancer (given by PINK), and another on women’s rights under the “new” Beninese Family Code.
After lunch, Prisca, our sage-femme, set up shop in our makeshift screening room, and she began screening women over 35, while everyone else participated in Moringa and micro-enterprise trainings.
Overall, the day was a success, although we weren’t able to screen nearly as many women as we’d hoped for. We’ll be following up with those cases that need it within the next few weeks.
Things that could have gone better
I should have arranged for two sage-femmes. We could have screened more women AND/OR split the screening and showing how to self-examen.
Having a camera crew along to show that yes, we did actually do stuff on March 8 was cool, but now that we’ve done it once, it will be largely unnecessary in the future. However, being on TV is awesome.
Things that went really well (just about everything, really)
We specifically requested that the doctors we work with send us a woman who speaks Fon (the predominant language in Zagnanado). Prisca was one of the only speakers to speak exclusively in local language, as opposed to giving her speech in French, then doing a quick translation into Fon. The women loved it, and we didn’t have to deal with translations and misunderstandings due to language.
Ivy did a great job with the logistics. It was really an interesting change to be part of a larger event celebrating women, rather than focusing solely on breast cancer. I think PINK should do more of this kind of thing. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and we can touch a lot of women we don’t normally interact with.
Zagnanado’s Int’l Women’s Day celebration was a much needed reminder that small projects can be just as effective as big ones, and that you don’t have to change the world to make a difference.