Source: Tanzania Daily News
THE First Lady, Mama Salma Kikwete, hailed Vodacom Tanzania for making use of mobile phone technology to push for the economic and social development of women in the country.

Mama Salma Kikwete was speaking in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday at an event to celebrate the success of a Text to Treatment,' a partnership between Vodacom and Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) has transformed the lives of over 1,900 women who have benefited from fistula operations.

Mama Kikwete said she was impressed by a report compiled by Vodafone Foundation which shows huge benefits to women through easy accessing of communication services.

"It is a fact that very often the contribution of women in society is not given due recognition.

On the contrary many people acknowledge without making so much noise that that a woman is the backbone of the family," she said. Mama Salma stressed it was time for women to amplify their voices and talk about empowering themselves and not be stuck to cultural norms that confine women to domestic chores.

She said that by empowering women, communities would prosper, and making reference to the World Bank she added if women have voice in their households and participate in civic activities they benefit and through education they can be gainfully employed.

She thanked Vodafone Foundation for using mobile phone technology for various services that are vital for Tanzanian women.

She said she believed that the various programmes run by Vodacom Foundation such as the payment scheme "Text for Treatment' would be of a great help not only to women but also to households, communities and the nation at large.

A global report by the Vodafone Group, Connected Women: How mobile can support women's economic and social empowerment, identifies the 'Text to Treatment' mobile payment system as one of six mobile services provided by Vodafone and the Vodafone Foundation that are enabling women to seize new opportunities and improve their lives.

Though obstetric fistula is easily treatable, lack of awareness, poverty and stigma prevent many from getting help. The report, which recognises the impact of mobile on women, and launched in Tanzania at the Connected Women's event indicates that in Tanzania around 20,000 women live with the condition and a further 3,000 cases occur each year.

The Connected Women's event brought together some of Tanzania's most influential women to celebrate the International Women's week. Through the Vodafone Foundation funding, CCBRT now provides free treatment, travel and counselling for women with fistula.

CCBRT's network of over 400 ambassadors work in rural areas to raise awareness and to find and refer women suffering from fistula to the CCBRT's hospital and partner clinics for treatment.

CCBRT and the Vodafone Foundation have also been working together to address a significant barrier to treatment - poverty, which leave many women not accessing free treatment due to travel costs to the hospital being high.

With 'Text to Treatment', when an ambassador refers a new patient, the hospital sends funds via the M-Pesa mobile payment system to pay for the patient's bus fare. When the patient reaches the hospital a small incentive payment is sent to the Ambassador via M-Pesa.

This encourages Ambassadors to stay in the programme and to seek out more potential patients. The report adds that 'Text to Treatment' is helping CCBRT reach more patients in new areas across Tanzania, with an increase of 270 per cent treated per year.

The Head of CSI, Vodafone Foundation, Laura Turkington, said that since 'Text to Treatment' was introduced in 2010, over 1,900 women have benefited from the life changing fistula operation, enabling them to return to work and live a normal life.

"Today CCBRT is the world's largest treatment centre for obstetric fistula, with funding from donors such as the Swiss and Dutch governments, as well as the Vodafone Foundation," Ms Turkington added. "Our pledge as Vodacom Foundation is that we will strengthen our commitment to support more women across the country."

With Vodafone Foundation support, CCBRT is now extending the service to other health centres across Tanzania. MPesa Text to Treatment system is also being used for patients with cleft palates and the Vodafone Foundation is supporting its introduction for emergency maternal health referrals and for women at risk of complications in childbirth.

FIRST Lady and Chairperson of WAMA, Mama Salma Kikwete receives a gift from Elizabeth Mwahasanga (kneeling), a survivor of fistula, during an event to celebrate the success of the women’s initiative started by Vodafone Foundation. (Photo by Robert Okanda)

FIRST Lady Mama Salma Kikwete and Chairperson of WAMA
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