Source: Vanguard

FOUR Nigerian women have been named among 100 Outstanding Women Nurses and Midwives Leaders by the Women in Global Health.

They were named as part of activities to mark the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

A statement by the WGH and YONM named the four Nigerian women as Mary Ozuruonye Agholor, Edidiong Asanga, Emmanualla Inah, and Onyinyechi Susan Madu.

The statement explained that the 100 women were chosen for "their everyday heroism and service", amidst the global health challenges.

"During the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, amidst a global pandemic, the courageous work of Nurses and Midwives deserves, more than ever, to be honored--not just by applause. Let us use the stories of their everyday heroism and service to call for all countries to invest in decent work and a new social contract for nurses and midwives as part of their commitment to health for all," it explained.

According to the statement, "Despite shortages of Personal Protective Equipments, a lack of support and crippling uncertainty, these women represent millions more Nurses and Midwives on the frontlines of patient care, providing solutions, every day, to people around the globe." The organizations said Agholor, born and bred in Ile-Ife, Osun State by Delta State parents, was the first Nigerian Nurse to become a broadcaster as she founded the Nightingale Radio as a platform for Nurses to speak out and express themselves and serve as an information hub for Nurses and Nursing bodies such as the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives.

The statement said, "The station has become a rallying point and voice of Nurses in Nigeria. As a public health nurse with a passion for public speaking and broadcasting, Agholor's daily work routine involves creating health awareness, preventive medicine advocacy, and increasing the availability of health information.

"She uses public speaking and broadcast media as tools to facilitate public health education through health shows on the radio. Recently, Agholor has been involved in the dissemination and propagation of information about COVID - 19 primarily through Florence Nightingale Radio.

"She additionally gives weekly presentations on another radio station, Living proof Radio, to reach out and educate the population on COVID-19. Agholor paired her nursing skills with her understanding of media to produce jingles about COVID-19 prevention and control which are being aired on three different media houses.

"The jingles focus on the need for constant and consistent handwashing with soap and water, frequent use of hand sanitizer, proper use of facemasks, and physical distancing."

According to WGH and YONM, Asanga was the first and only Nurse/Midwife in Akwa Ibom State, South-South Nigeria who employs the use of American Sign Language and Nigeria Sign Language for the care of hearing-impaired patients.

The statement said, "Previously Asanga has been a Surgical Nurse, Midwife, and even legislative intern carrying out health policy analyses. She is a highly experienced and sensitive Nurse-Midwife with an exceptional record of providing stellar medical and emotional services to all kinds of patients.

"Adept at functioning well in a high-pressure work environment, Asanga currently trains other Nurses on ASL and NSL to care for these clients wherever they may be found. She is raising a diverse health workforce and promoting a healthcare inclusive system. She currently works as a school healthcare Nurse at a special education centre."

Inah, a practicing registered Nurse and Midwife was named because during the course of her Midwifery training, the school-sponsored trips to rural villages where none of them spoke the native language or understood their culture, practices and beliefs.

"However, they found a way of communicating and relating to the community through the language of West African pidgin. There, Emmanuella and her team created awareness about practices that promoted postpartum haemorrhage, which was the leading cause of death in the community. They organized educational health seminars in village halls, community playgrounds, and the chief's compounds", WGH and YONM said.

 She is about launching her first book, entitled: "The Preggy Workbook", containing a detailed guide on the trimesters of pregnancy, pregnancy myths, and how to enjoy the journey.

Madu was named "community hero" because her dedication has deeply impacted the local midwifery nursing community, as well as the broader global health ecosystem.

"She has participated extensively in research and community care work that has positively impacted the lives of the poor and underprivileged in rural communities of Imo State, Nigeria", the statement said.

Madu was also said to have contributed regularly to courses, healthcare, and movements at the grassroots level to improve access to quality healthcare through extensive research and intervention schemes.

"As a Nursing Officer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital, Bauchi State, Nigeria, she has been involved with the Cholera Treatment Centre to create awareness and carry out research on the 2014 cholera outbreak", WGH and YONM stated.

 
 

Source: Voice of America

KAOLACK, SENEGAL   - An organization run by women in Senegal, ElleSolaire, was supplying solar panels to light up country homes that are off the power grid.

Source: Daily Trust

Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with the country accounting for about 20 per cent of global maternal deaths. Daily Trust Saturday, in this report, examines some of the factors responsible for this ugly trend.

Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in several low-and-middle-income countries is alarming, with about 34% of global maternal deaths occurring in Nigeria and India alone.

Traditional birth attendants at a training

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the MMR of Nigeria is 814 deaths (per 100,000 live births).

The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is one in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4,900.

Nigerian women are also said to be 500 times more likely to lose their lives in childbirth when compared to most advanced nations of the world.

An online research media, indexmundi puts Nigeria's maternal mortality rate at 917 deaths/100,000 live births.

Speaking on the increasing rate of maternal mortality in the country, the Programme and Communication Officer, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Mr Armsfree Ajanaku said, from their experience as an organization that has been working to mitigate the devastating impact of scourge of maternal and child health in Nigeria, they have observed a number of factors contributing to the situation.

"In the first place, the poor governance of the Primary Healthcare Sector is a major issue. A situation where PHCs, which are supposed to be the first port of call for expectant mothers and infants are ill equipped to respond to basic treatment needs, exposes large number of mothers and babies to untimely death," he said.

He said they have situations, especially in rural areas, where equipment as basic as beds, thermometers, and blood pressure monitors are not available in PHCs resulting in patients being treated without the right indices.

Mr Ajanaku said many Nigerians in urban centres take some of these things for granted, but in the rural areas, "they are luxuries, which are hard to come by."

He urged the government and stakeholders in the health sector to look deeply into the PHCs and make available facilities and human capital needed to make them function well to enable pregnant women have access to quality healthcare services at the grassroots to reduce the rate of maternal deaths recorded yearly.

In Northern Nigeria, many women die from pregnancy-related complications as many reports have exposed.

It is believed that this is because of the inaccessibility of health care facilities for expectant mothers, which is because of a plethora of reasons.

Poverty, early marriage big factors in Kano

In 2020, Daily Trust Saturday profiled a group of women in the Gwammaja area of Kano State, who had identified some of these problems around them.

The women, led by one Hajiya Amina Tanko, had first identified poverty as the foremost problem amongst them.

"Women and their relatives simply had no money to invest in antenatal care, or for safe deliveries in reputable hospitals.

"Among us, some died while giving birth or their children will die because some husbands will say they do not have money to take them to the hospital, and that was why we had to do something to help our members, so that nobody will be dying anyhow," Hajiya Tanko said.

A Nigerian is classified as poor when he lives below $1 per day, which is about N400.

A traditional birth attendant examines a pregnant woman

On a geopolitical zone assessment, North-Western Nigeria has 77.7% of its population living in poverty, with Kano having 55.1% on a state level.

"A woman cannot even eat till her husband gives her money to buy food, and how much is that money? You see someone with seven, eight children, and the husband will give her N100 to eat. It is not enough. Where will they now get money for drugs if there is no money to eat?" Hajiya Tanko asked.

With more than half the population of Kano State said to be living below the poverty belt, chances of having enough finance to consider proper healthcare is very minimal.

When the group was able to combat the issue of finance by empowering themselves and sourcing for funds from trade and communal contributions, the next obstacle was the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) next to them.

In Kano, most PHCs available to women merely exist in name but lack adequate personnel and facilities.

The women had complained that there were no doctors available for them, and the centres were not conducive for births neither were they open for 24 hours, hence, births that come at night pose a serious risk to mother and child.

PHCs mostly consist of a room or two, with benches and personnel, who are either impassionate about their jobs or overwhelmed and overworked.

Early marriage, which is also very rampant in Northern Nigeria, is considered one of the major contributors to maternal health complications with the WHO estimating that most complications come from pregnant teens.

WHO posits that if northern women had better control of their finances and were better educated, they would be empowered enough to make better decisions about their lives; this would invariably curtail maternal deaths and dangerous maternal complications.

According to Dr Yusuf Habib, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the major causes of complications in pregnant women results from improper checks and observations.

Dr Habib advised that women take their prenatal care very seriously.

"We even advise women to come in for what we call 'pre-conception check-up,' where we run tests and check women for any diseases they may be predisposed to or any complications they may be predisposed to before they conceive.

"That way, we can prescribe some supplements that may help women prevent complications like this. Also, women should always follow their doctors' advice and check their blood pressures regularly while pregnant."

But in a region where the majority of the people are poor and struggling to eat, the finance to consider check-ups, vitamins and proper healthcare will remain a myth.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had during the 2020 Primary Healthcare Summit held in Kano, said they were perfecting plans to establish a Primary Healthcare Center in each of 484 wards of the state.

Governor Ganduje insisted that healthcare needs of the Kano people remain sacrosanct and are important to the government.

According to him, more funds would be committed to uplifting the health status of the state.

While medical experts at the summit said they were impressed with the projects and programmes already executed by the Ganduje government towards providing adequate healthcare service delivery in the state, the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire said he believed Kano had efficient human resources to meet the universal healthcare coverage needs.

Inadequate PHCs, illiteracy fuel maternal mortality in Benue

In Benue State, experts have attributed high maternal mortality rates in the state largely to inadequate and ill-equipped Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities; illiteracy and poverty among others.

Dr Joseph Ngbea, who was recently sworn into office as the State's Commissioner for Health and Human Services, explains that majorly, the 'three delay model' remain the commonest factors which contribute to pregnant women dying at the point of delivery.

"The first delay is that at the level of the patient in terms of decision making, most women are either too illiterate to take correct health decisions or lack the financial backing to seek adequate healthcare. Most depend on their husbands to decide for them, who also may not have enough funds to provide adequate healthcare for them. They end up in the hands of quacks or traditionalist who lack the knowledge and skill to treat them.

"The second delay is associated with transportation and communication.

There are not enough functional PHCs and where there are, there are poor access roads and poor means of communication to aid prompt responses when there's an emergency. The third is the delay at the level of the health facility in terms of inadequate skilled manpower, lack of materials, power and so on," he said.

Ngbea added however that the causes of maternal mortality could be classified into direct, indirect and remote causes, stressing that the direct causes include hemorrhage, majorly postpartum haemorrhage, eclampsia, unsafe abortions and infections.

He maintained that while all of these, interwoven with the three levels of delays explain the high incidence of maternal mortality in Benue localities, the availability and accessibility of health services in the state continues to improve on regular basis.

"We are not where we ought to be but it's better than it used to be and also a work in progress. Under Ortom's administration, more PHCs have been built and equipped. The bond scheme has provided more manpower at the downstream levels of healthcare and with the State Health Insurance Scheme taking off, with proper implementation, healthcare should be accessible and affordable by majority of the Benue populace when it fully kicks off and is running," he said.

Also, Dr Josiah Ikwulono, a senior Medical Officer currently working at the General Hospital, Adikpo in Kwande Local Government area of the state listed poverty among issues that lead to high maternal mortality in Benue State.

"I have seen instances where I confirmed women to be pregnant and when counselled for antenatal, they will abruptly tell you that they have no money to attend antenatal clinic and they are right. So, they will continue to nurse the pregnancy at home. Some will come down with malaria in pregnancy or anemia in pregnancy and die via the complications.

"I heard of a woman who developed antepartum hemorrhage but there was no money to take her to hospital. That was how the woman bled to death at home. There are many instances like that," he said.

According to him, inadequate health personnel in the available facilities poses an additional challenge, pointing out that in some General hospitals, only one medical doctor will be found there.

He noted however that the situation is now changing for good because of the 'bond doctors' available, adding however that when few health personnel are available, proper care of the pregnant women will not be taken which can lead to maternal mortality.

Insecurity, inadequate health facilities/personnel challenge in Kaduna

Several factors are said to be responsible for maternal mortality in Kaduna State and the challenges range from poor human resources to unavailability of drugs for pregnant women and insecurity, which hinders pregnant women from accessing antenatal care and delivery services.

The Co-Chairman of Kaduna Maternal Accountability Mechanism who doubles as co-chairman of Open Government Partnership, Kaduna State, Mustapha Jumare told Daily Trust Saturday that most health facilities have inadequate human resources which explains why patients leave their homes as early as 4 am to get to the hospital only to return home at night.

"This could discourage pregnant women from going to the hospital," he said, adding that because some of the traditional birth attendants have no adequate training, they sometimes do more harm than good while certain health facilities lack the basic emergency drugs that should be given to pregnant women during antenatal.

"Sometimes, the health facilities lack folic acid and folates for pregnant women while the availability of malaria drugs is questionable in some of these health facilities in rural areas. You will find that intravenous fluids are also lacking in some facilities," he said.

According to Jumare, "Sometimes, the women could come for antenatal three or four times but when it's time for the actual childbirth, they stay at home and sometimes there could be complications; there could be postpartum hemorrhage which could lead to death. Sometimes there could be eclampsia."

He said another challenge contributing to high maternal mortality was the attitude of health workers to pregnant women, stressing that there are several cases where health workers treat pregnant women badly and hence, discourage them from visiting health facilities.

He said the maternal death review in Kaduna State takes place quarterly and analysis of maternal deaths in the state by focusing on about 30 secondary healthcare facility which are referral centres neglecting the Primary Health Care centres which also offer anti-natal services.

He said until these issues are attended to, the issues surrounding maternal mortality would continue to fester.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that from the Primary Healthcare facility in Galadimawa of Giwa Local Government Area in Kaduna State that as many as 90 pregnant women crowd the facility from surrounding villages for ante-natal every Wednesday being the market day. However, due to insecurity, health workers say the number has reduced by more than half.

"We will be lucky to see 30 women these days because they fear that bandits may ambush them on their way to Galadimawa because it is the only active PHC in the ward headquarters," said a health worker.

"Another challenge is that motorcyclists no longer go to the villages because the bandits usually attack and kill them and then steal their motorcycles; and so, the women lack a means of transportation," the health official added.

He said no matter the number of patients in the health centre, the facility has to be locked at 5 pm due to security challenges.

He however said that experienced midwives and traditional birth attendants in the villages have assisted in several deliveries.

"I can't say whether the mortality figure is high or not because sometimes, we don't get any mortality while other times, we get some deaths but all I can say is that without these birth attendants, the death rate would definitely be higher," he said.

Insurgency, poor nutrition raises maternal mortality rate in Borno

Data obtained from the Borno State government showed that 344 maternal deaths were recorded at health facilities in 2020 out of which 94 were deaths relating to pregnancies.

A senior health official said poor nutrition among thousands of women displaced by insurgency as well as hypertensive disorders were part of the factors that led to increased maternal mortality in the state. Also, obstructed labour and other diseases have to some extent contributed in the death of women during child birth.

He said more awareness was being created about pregnancy-related problems as more health facilities and personnel were being improved in communities ravaged by the insurgents.

Bayelsa govt worries over the maternal mortality rate

The Bayelsa State government has expressed concern over the rate of maternal mortality in the state.

Worried by the high rate of maternal mortality, the state government under former Governor Seriake Dickson had launched the "Safe Motherhood Scheme" to kick-start the payment of monthly stipends to pregnant women in the state as transport fare to nearby hospitals for antenatal.

The government said the launch was in line with its determination to reduce incidences of maternal and infant mortality in the state

Speaking in Yenagoa recently during the Bayelsa Reproductive Maternal Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH), Commissioner for Health, Dr Newton Igwele, expressed concern over the maternal mortality rate after receiving the scorecard for the third quarter of 2020 presented by the state team in collaboration with the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

He said the scorecard was an eye-opener that the state still had a lot to do in the area of healthcare delivery.

He said from the scorecard, it was noticed that all the poor healthcare indicators were tied to one thing--maternal care, adding that the state government would do all within its power to cater to the needs of the mothers to change the narrative.

"However, the situation is like joint demands. They are all tied to one thing - maternal health. If we tackle the mothers, it will positively impact the other areas. Maternal care coverage is poor and we need to tackle it. We need to improve the number of mothers attending clinics and by so doing; we will improve our health care delivery," he said.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the reason for the rising maternal mortality rate was largely due to the riverine nature of the state which often makes it difficult for pregnant women to access health facilities, with most people in interior places travelling to Yenagoa, the state capital for antenatal services.

Hypertension, bleeding major causes of maternal death in Adamawa

Pregnancy induced hypertension, bleeding and poor access to health care are major causes of death in pregnant women in Adamawa State.

A gynaecologist at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Yola, Dr. Bitrus Fidelis Chagwa said the last study conducted across the North East showed that hypertension is the major cause of death in pregnant women followed by bleeding.

According to him, the death rate is higher in rural areas due to poor access to health facilities and the fact that patients had to travel long distances.

He noted that lack of money to pay for medication could lead to death in state government hospitals where there were no revolving funds to be used as intervention measures to take care of poor patients.

"A situation where a pregnant woman is bleeding and she has B.P., she needed magnesium sulphate but if they don't have the money to buy it, then, such a woman could die," he said.

In Nasarawa, a source at the State's Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NAPHCDA) said there are no available statistics on maternal mortality rates in the state.

The source said that the causes or factors leading to high maternal mortality in Nigeria generally are categorized into two namely, medical and non-medical factors.

"Non-medical factors are manpower shortage (skilled birth attendants); delay in seeking care; delay in reaching points of care; delay in referrals; cultural beliefs/ practices; poverty; lack of equipment/medications/blood; failure to recognize danger signs and inadequate power supply

"While the medical causes are; hemorrhage (blood loss during or after delivery); sepsis (infection); complications of abortion (miscarriage); pregnancy-induced hypertension; ruptured uterus and prolonged obstructed labour," he said.

On the availability and accessibility of health facilities for people especially at the grassroots in Nasarawa State, he said it has over 770 PHCs and 18 General Hospitals spread across the 13 LGAs, adding that every ward has at least one PHC center or is close to one, which he said are "pretty accessible."

Source: Africa Renewal

Thirty-two-year-old Mariam Traoré, a community health worker in Mali, starts her day with a COVID-19 self-check, including body temperature and other symptoms such as cough, sore throat, loss of smell or taste. If all is good, Ms. Traoré then gears up with a mask and face shield before leaving her house in Yirimadio, a district on the outskirts of the capital Bamako. She remembers to carry enough gloves to protect herself and others when visiting patients across her local town.

The WHO defines Community Health Workers (CHWs) as lay people who live in the communities they serve and who function as a critical link between those communities and the primary-healthcare system. In Africa, they provide low-cost interventions for common maternal and paediatric health problems such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, undernutrition, malaria, HIV, measles and now COVID-19. They also assist with immunization.

By going door-to-door providing integrated community case management, and now during the pandemic providing COVID-19 specific interventions, community health workers continue to be an integral part of the healthcare system on the continent. However, their roles vary from country to country.

In Mali, community health workers often treat community members with malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and provide immunizations and family planning services. There are 30,000 Community Health Workers in Mali alone and more than a million across sub-Saharan Africa, all working to reduce barriers to healthcare, particularly to women and children.

As part of her job, Ms. Traoré pays daily visits to her patients in their homes, majority of them children. When she is unable to make these visits, patients either come to her house or she advises them over the phone.

“I typically visit up to 32 homes a day. However, when there are many children requiring my attention, I may not be able to visit as many homes. Currently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to constantly change my Personal protective equipment (PPE) between each patient to protect them and myself against infection,” Ms. Traoré said in an interview.

Ms. Traoré learned to provide a suite of healthcare services from Muso, a global health non-profit organization that works with Mali's Ministry of Health to design and test proactive community health systems.

Need PPE

Just like any other healthcare professionals, community health workers also required PPE to be able to safely serve their patients without being exposed to potential health risks, especially during the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, I would educate women on the various family planning options available to them. I would go to where these women are and seek to talk to them alone for their own privacy and confidentiality,” says Ms. Traoré. “However, without PPE and with social distancing, it's harder to have those private conversations without other members of the family hearing what we are discussing.”

When COVID-19 first hit Mali in March 2020, many of these community health workers could not visit patients in their homes as they were viewed as potential vectors for the disease and they lacked the necessary PPE.

The WHO says severe disruption to the global supply of PPE was putting lives at risk from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Healthcare workers rely on PPE to protect themselves and their patients from being infected. But shortages are leaving doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers such as community healthcare workers, dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

It was estimated that there was a 203% increase in COVID-19 infections amongst health care workers in Africa because they lack proper PPEs.

Muso’s contribution

Muso is one of the organizations that stepped in to provide free PPEs to community health workers in Mali, including Ms. Traoré.  Muso is a member of the award-winning COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa), a collaboration of more than 30 organizations dedicated to supplying PPE to community health workers on the frontlines of Africa's COVID-19 response.

The CAF-Africa coalition was launched in August 2020 and is the only known global effort exclusively mobilizing resources to equip African community health workers with PPE.  It also collaborates with ministries of Health to ensure local governments are equipped to protect CHWs as they take a larger role in national responses to COVID-19.

Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions, and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding.

Christian Rusangwa, the director of Technical Assistance at Muso and a partner of CAF-Africa, says Muso's first intervention was to protect community health workers.

"We provided them with PPE so that they could continue their work, and so that patients with Malaria could still get their rapid tests and those with pneumonia could still get the care they needed," said Mr. Rusangwa.

CAF-Africa has donated over five million pieces of PPE to Mali, including 5,472,000 face masks, and 22,529 face shields.

CHW in Uganda

In Uganda, CAF-Africa partnered with other organizations such as BRAC and Living Goods to donate 6.6 million pieces of PPE to the Ministry of Health in October 2020.

Following the donation, Uganda's Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, launched a new national strategy that would depend on the country's community health workers to fight COVID-19 at the community level.

Ms. Muyingo Prossie, a community health worker in Busimbi Village, Miyana District in Uganda, recalls when the pandemic first hit her country, she did not have the adequate PPE to see all of her patients.

"We were told to pause testing for malaria and giving family planning services," said Ms. Prossie. "Many people were left without health services and just had to wait."

This was a painful reality for Ms. Prossie who, like Ms. Traoré, understands how critical her role is in community health.

"Ever since I became a community health worker in my community, no woman or child has died during delivery," Ms. Prossie said.

She understands that many of her patients do not want to be exposed to COVID-19 or they are too frail to leave their homes, so she often gears up and attends to them in their homes.

"I cannot just leave them without care," says Ms. Prossie.

As Africa continues to navigate its COVID-19 response, community health workers like Ms. Prossie and Ms. Traoré, will continue serving on the frontlines, ensuring all members of the community receive the care they need.

"So, I will put on my mask and I go to them," concludes Ms. Prossie.

Source: DW News

Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in Africa. Despite decades of campaigns, the traditional practice has hardly declined. This doesn't deter Rugiatu Turay from fighting cutting.

Campaigner Rugiatu Turay sets up the film screen and projector in the dusty meeting center of Magbanabon village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Matotoka Town in the north of Sierra Leone.

She's here to screen a documentary about female genital mutilation (FGM), commonly known as "cutting" in the region.

As night falls, around a hundred men, women and children from the village seat themselves for the screening under the community center's thatched roof.

Many in the audience scream in shock at a scene detailing the cutting, which is normally done without anesthetic using knives, razor blades or even pieces of glass.

Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of FGM in Africa. According to UNICEF figures from 2017, the practice has been performed on an estimated 86% of women and girls in the country. FGM involves the partial or total removal of the female genital organs, such as the clitoris or labia.

Besides severe bleeding, FGM can cause a variety of health issues from infections and cysts to infertility and complications in childbirth.

Among those in Magbanabon watching the documentary are soweis, elderly women who carry out the circumcision as part of girls' initiation into the Bondo society, a secret women's society with an entrenched role in the county's tribal and political life.

Some soweis scream at the cutting scene, others look away, placing their heads in their hands to avoid the graphic footage.

After the screening, Turay sounded out the community's views on what they had seen and offered men and women the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the way forward.

 

Tackling FGM by listening with respect

Turay is one of Sierra Leone's most well-known anti-FGM campaigners. She founded the grassroots anti-FGM group the Amazonian Initiative Movement in 2002, is a former deputy minister of social welfare, gender and children's affairs, and in 2020 won a German human rights prize, the Theodor Haecker award, for her work. 

Above all, she has a reputation for talking to all of those involved in cutting, including the soweis, parents, girls, and village chiefs.

"One of the things you always have to do as a campaigner is to make sure you are honest to yourself, speak frankly and give respect to people," Turay told DW. "You can see that they look at me as any one of them. I behave like them."

Magbanabon Town Chief PaKapri Kargbo, who attended the documentary screening, said he appreciates Turay's message.

"She didn't threaten us," Kargbo told DW, instead she "simply explained what we didn't know in the past."

But he still questions what comes next for the soweis, who depend on the ritual cutting for their livelihoods.

 

Finding alternative incomes for elderly cutters

Girls' families supply the soweis with food, clothing, cloth, jewelry and money during the initiation period and still give them occasional gifts long after that.

"If our people eventually agree with her ideas, what would the repercussion be or what would be done for the soweis?" Kargbo asked.

Turay is keenly aware that fighting FGM also means finding alternative sources of income for the soweis.

Later in the week, Turay meets with a group of soweis who have promised to stop practicing FGM during a special Bondo initiation she organized in 2019 that didn't involve any cutting.

The Bondo initiation rituals, which confer womanhood on girls, often occur in isolated forested areas referred to as a Bondo bush. As well as being cut, young girls are taught ritual dances and chants and how to confront spirits, as well as learning how to do domestic chores and be prepared for a husband.

Now, Turay wants to hear how the former soweis are getting on.

She always loved the drumming, dancing and singing part of the Bondo bush, admits former solwei Salamatu Kanu. But over time, she came to dread doing the circumcision, she said, and had to "be highly intoxicated to do the cutting."

"Now that I have experienced Turay's campaign and the effects it is having on me and my peers, there's no reason to return to our old habits," Kanu told DW. "Some of us are now training in tailoring [through Turay's organization] and I consider that more beneficial than what we were engaged in."

 

Creating new, bloodless Bondo rituals

To break to cycle of FGM, Turay wants to create alternative Bondo rituals to cutting.

"The challenge is to eliminate female genital mutilation but not the Bondo culture, which plays an important role in society," Turay told DW.

Around 100 girls took part in Turay's first "No Blade, No Blood, No Pain" Bondo. One of them was Ramatu S. Bangura, who was 19 at the time.

Bangura had previously refused to take part in the Bondo bush because she didn't want to endure FGM. This led to enormous teasing from her friends at school and in her community for not being an initiate, she said.

But she jumped at the chance to be part of Turay's special Bondo, she told DW, "because they are not dealing with blood."

"The same people who used to mock at me now think that we are the same because I'm now a member of the Bondo society."

Aminata M. Kamara, who lives in the Port Loko District in Sierra Leone's north, also took part. She is outspoken in what she sees as the advantages of not having endured FGM.

"Most of our female parents went through that society," she explained to DW. "Some of them weren't able to give birth anymore. Some of their husbands left them because they were not able to enjoy their sex life anymore because they had removed their clitoris."

"Any man that I have sex with, that man will really enjoy me. And as time goes on, when I get my own pregnancy, I'll be able to give birth easily."

 

 

Source: The New York Times

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Even before fighting started in November between the Ethiopian government and powerful military forces in the country’s northern region of Tigray, the area was home to as many as 200,000 refugees and displaced people, according to United Nations agencies.

Source: UN Women

Progress of Second Chance Education Project farming activities from July 2020 to present in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Date: Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Second Chance Education (SCE) Project leverages partnerships, holistic approach and innovative technology to break current trends, and provide a comprehensive solution for marginalized women and young women.

Source: AutoBlog

KAMPALA, Uganda — The women grappled with each other inside the vehicle. The driver jerked to ease the grip around her neck, then turned to elbow her attacker in the back seat. She flung the door open to make her escape, ending the simulated attack.

Source: The Organization for World Peace

On Friday, September 25, Komi Selom Kassou, the Prime Minister of Togo since 2015, resigned and passed the baton to Victoire Tomegah Dogbé, making her the first female Prime Minister in the West African nation’s history. This historic event was celebrated across the country by human rights activists as it represents hope and progress for gender equality and economic growth.

Source: Africa.com

Women in Ghana closing the gender gap in internet access – but still miss out on benefits of digital technology

Almost as many women as men use the internet in Ghana, according to a new survey from the World Wide Web Foundation, which finds men are just 6% more likely to be online than women.

Source: UN Women

From the 11th  till the 15th of March 2019, 38 senior officials from the ministries of finance and women empowerment from all the states members of AFRITAC centre, were trained gender sensitive budgeting during the 8th edition of Budget ‘senior Officials’  Forum

Source: The Gaurdian

More than 50 women have accused aid workers from the World Health Organization and leading NGOs of sexual exploitation and abuse during efforts to fight Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

More than 70% of displaced and refugee women in Africa have seen a rise in domestic violence in their communities during the coronavirus pandemic, a survey published on Thursday found.

Source: Devex

KAYA, Burkina Faso — Ramata Sawadogo was eight weeks pregnant when she was chased from her home by gunmen in May of last year. The 30-year-old spent the next few months running from village to village, in search of refuge and health care, in Burkina Faso’s center-north region.

Source: Nyasa Times

Some chiefs in the Southern Region have backed an amendment of the abortion law that allows for the termination of unwanted pregnancies under certain conditions and are persuading members of Parliament to pass the Termina pf Pregnancy Bill when it is tabled for debate during the current sitting of the National Assembly.

Source: AllAfrica

Produce innovative versions of a staple food for a regional market. Feed hungry people, now and in the future. While you're at it, train farmers - mostly women - in improved agriculture techniques, financial management and hygienic storage techniques. And, oh yes, provide jobs in your community.

Source: AlJazeera

Windhoek, Namibia – When Bertha Tobias first headed to the streets of Namibia’s capital last week, she had one clear goal in mind: Shut it all down.

Source: Washington Post

People in the world’s largest Black nation have taken to the streets to demand one thing of their police: Stop killing us.

Source: Daily News

SEVENTEEN schoolgirls out of 48 in six secondary schools in Dodoma's Bahi District have absconded classes due to early pregnancies, suspected to be acquired during the coronavirus pandemic and flooding season.

Source: New Zimbabwe

THE High Court Wednesday ordered the Harare City Council and government to re-open 42 local clinics that had been closed without notice recently.

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