Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teaching Matrones and Bajenu Gox about Cervical Cancer!

To meet the prevalence study target of screening 3000 women for cervical cancer, a strong communication plan is essential.  In our strategic planning session between peacecare and the Saraya District Chief Doctor, it was decided that we’d train community health workers to lead health talks on cervical cancer to motivate more women to come out and get screened.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working with the regional midwife trainers to plan a region-wide cervical cancer training for skilled birth attendants (“matrones”) and Village Aunts (“bajenu gox”).  Village Aunts are community health liaisons, and there is usually at least one in every village.  These women have been trained in basic health education and occasionally lead health talks in the communities.  I worked with the head regional midwife to put together a curriculum for the training, and she created a powerpoint presentation.  The goal of the training was to provide the community health workers with a basic understanding of the female anatomy, cervical cancer, screening, and treatment. 

Two weeks ago, we did the training in all 3 health district capitals with skilled birth attendants and village aunts who came in from all the villages with a health post in the region.  Since it was only a 1-day training and most community health workers are illiterate, we wanted to keep the technical information to a minimum and include lots of pictures. 

Trainers: Fatou N'dour, Head Regional Midwife
and Ndella Diouf, Head Kedougou Midwife

The phrase in Malinke for cervical cancer translates directly to “the disease that lives in the birth place”.  This gives an idea of the level of technical information that could be taught.  Without a formal education, the big takeaways about cervical cancer were that women who test positive could die or not have children in the future if they don’t get treated.  This information has been enough to get women motivated to get screened, because in this culture, having a family is the highest priority.

The first training took place in Kedougou, and I was impressed with the number of women who showed up!  As tends to be the case here, the training started 2 hours late, but all of the information got covered.  Language was an issue since the lead trainer wanted to do the presentation in Wolof, and the majority of community health workers in the region speak either Malinke or Pulaar.  The slides on the powerpoint were also in French, and since most of the women were illiterate, they didn’t get much out of it.  There were some hiccups, but at the end of the presentation, the women told me that they learned enough information to do health talks in their villages about cervical cancer.  We plan to use these women as resources when we go out into the villages during our mass screening campaign.

It was great to see the women engaged in the presentation, and I hope the health talks they lead in the communities will give us a good turnout during the screening campaign!


  1. Marielle,
    Your training program looks like it's getting off to a promising start. It's good that so many of the women see the value in getting screened. Keep up the great work! xoxo Mom

  2. It must be very challenging to have to deal with so many different types of translations when you move from village to village.