Cervical Cancer is a 90% preventable disease but in Tanzania is the leading cause of cancer and cancer-related deaths among Tanzanian women. Each year more than 9,772 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 69% of these women die as they are diagnosed at a late stage of the disease.
Pepal partners with ICAP Tanzania on a program called ‘NJIA’ which develops the leadership capacities of health care professionals to tackle this disease burden in the Kagera Region. This partnership, together with Roche Pharmaceutica and MoHCDGEC Tanzania has been running since 2016, and has evolved from strength to strength.
Over the years, NJIA has engaged with individuals working in the health system structure at all levels - from Ministry of Health officials to community health workers. The focus of this blog is to feature the perspectives of two outstanding participants from our fifth cohort of leaders in 2017: Community Outreach Volunteers (COVs).
COVs are enrolled by ICAP to engage with key and vulnerable population groups in the community and link them to vital HIV and primary health care. Their work is crucial to achieving healthy, empowered communities across Tanzania. COVs are representatives of key and vulnerable populations (e.g. adolescent girls and young women, sex workers, HIV+ patients) and are often the first point of contact for many communities to learn about essential healthcare. They act as role models, are relatable and approachable to other community members, and complete all of their work on a voluntary basis.
Pepal and ICAP are working together to integrate cervical cancer education into the rigorous training that COVs undergo before they begin volunteering with ICAP. Valentina Vicent and Anisia Kamugisha, through their participation in the fifth cohort of the program, demonstrated how powerful this idea is - not only in helping to save lives of women in their communities, but for their own personal development.
“When I joined the NJIA program I was excited by the exposure of working with different people and professions who I never imaged I would have had the chance to work with. The first day it was hard for me to engage with them but they were so interactive with me and I slowly gained the confidence to engage. Today I have no fear standing and talking to new people in my day to-day work. I have learned a lot about cervical cancer, which enabled me to integrate CCS sensitization during my HIV testing, community mobilization, and I have gotten women to go for screening. This make me feel so empowered and motivated to approach the community because of the confidence I gained on the NJIA program.” ~ Valentina Vicent
“Being in a NJIA program as a COV has helped me to strengthen my capacity to interact with my community and I have gained confidence to stand and speak to people. I am grateful to have an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge on leadership and cervical cancer, which I use now to sensitize community” ~ Anicia Kamugisha