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Story and Perspective

World Health Worker Week: Two Health Workers Amplify Sexual and Reproductive Health in Togo

Togo

The USAID Amplify Family Planning and Sexual and Reproductive Health (AmplifyPF) project strengthens access to quality family planning services in the West Africa region including Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and Togo. To celebrate World Health Worker Week, Pathfinder International sat down with two incredible health workers in Togo: 1) Mr. Soflimata Kwadjo Mawouena,  a community health worker who works in the Ave district of Badja—a village in Togo that is located east of Todomé, where he was born; and 2) Ms. Kojo Komna Boundjara serves as a midwife at the Agoe-Demakpoe polyclinic in Lomé, Togo. These frontline health workers work alongside the AmplifyPF project to improve the health of others and save lives.

Soflimata Kwadjo Mawouena, Community Health Worker

Family planning interests me. After witnessing the complications that may happen during childbirth, I was happy to participate in a training on sexual and reproductive health. I learned a lot from the training, and now offer family planning counseling in my village. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my community!

Q: When and why did you decide to become a health care worker? And why specifically in the field of sexual and reproductive health?

I was chosen to do this profession. In fact, the Chief of my village and the President of the Village Development Committee choose who can become a community health worker in a village. I was asked by the Chief in 2004.

Family planning interests me. After witnessing the complications that may happen during childbirth, I was happy to participate in a training on sexual and reproductive health. I learned a lot from the training, and now offer family planning counseling in my village. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my community!

Q: What do you do, day-to-day, for your job?

Each day, I review important documents and training reports. I also check my calendar to see which appointments I have with new and current patients. I remind them, so they don’t miss their appointments. Every day, I think about my duties as a community health worker.

Q: How do you stay informed about advancements in your field?

I try to stay informed about advancements in my field on a monthly basis. At the end of each month, other community health workers and I meet with our boss. Everyone points out their shortcomings and our boss offers solutions. Also quarterly, we work under supervision to enhance our skills.

Q: What challenges do health workers face and how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?

A challenge that I’ve encountered is that there are surrounding farms located between 3 to 5 kilometers (2 to 3 miles) that need access to family planning. The main challenge is lack of transport to get there.

Religion and attitudes toward family planning are a challenge. During counseling, some women resist family planning and believe that religion encourages having children— and don’t want to oppose the will of God. But I explain to them that you have to plan to take good care of children. Some women understand, but others don’t.

Q: What can be done to address these challenges and how can they be prevented in the future?

I rent a motorbike at my own expense to go quickly and attend meetings. Sometimes I borrow my cousin’s bike for appointments. To shift religious mindsets, I present the benefits of family planning for mothers and children and over time, there are some women who understand.

Q: How are you ensuring that you are well-rested and remain healthy?

Despite all this work, I have a routine. In the morning I go to appointments. By 11 am, I come back home to rest. In the evening, after resting, I make house calls. I do this every day.

Q: What is the proudest moment in your career? Can you tell us a short story about someone you’ve helped?

When I see that children are healthy, women are healthy and can participate in economic activities, and [their partners] are also [happy], this changes the life of a couple or the entire family— it gives me a lot of pride.

One story that comes to mind is about a lady who thanked me. She had four children. She told me that if she hadn’t met with me to use a family planning method, she would have given birth to a fifth child. Today, she is relieved to have been given a choice.

Q: What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in sexual and reproductive health care?

The community health worker is important to the community. Any young person who would like to embrace this profession is welcome because, there are our mothers, our fathers, and our children who need family planning programs to improve their lives.

All young people are welcome to join this profession because getting involved means saving lives, putting oneself at the service of humanity.

Kojo Komna Boundjara, Midwife

“I became inspired in high school where I attended a cultural awareness week event. One day on this occasion, there were midwives who came to talk about different contraception methods… like how to wear condoms. That day, I met a midwife whose words moved me. That’s when I found my calling. I knew this would be a good profession. And that’s how I became motivated to do this work.

Q: When and why did you decide to become a health care worker? And why specifically in the field of sexual and reproductive health?

I became inspired in high school where I attended a cultural awareness week event. One day on this occasion, there were midwives who came to talk about different contraception methods… like how to wear condoms. That day, I met a midwife whose words moved me. That’s when I found my calling. I knew this would be a good profession. And that’s how I became motivated to do this work.

Also, witnessing the miracle of childbirth firsthand is why I decided to work in sexual and reproductive health.

Q: What do you do, day-to-day, for your job?

On the job, each day, I offer at least one contraceptive method to one woman and provide family planning counseling to the community and young women who want to delay childbirth.

Q: How do you stay informed about advancements in your field?

In the field of midwifery, there are workshops that we attend that are often organized by the AmplifyPF project.

I also stay informed by doing research on the internet.

Q: What challenges do health workers face and how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?

There is a problem with contraceptive availability and stockouts. For example, for a long-term birth control option we have Implanon, which costs around 3,500 CFA (6 USD)—this increase in cost is beyond many people’s reach.

Q: What can be done to address these challenges and how can they be prevented in the future?

To address this issue, the AmplifyPF project organizes Free Family Planning Days, which brings numerous women together to get the health care they need. Before the AmplifyPF project we would see 12-13, maybe 15 individuals at most per day. But with the project’s support we are now seeing more than 30 patients per day.

Q: How are you ensuring that you are well-rested and remain healthy?

To recharge, I use the little time that I have to rest. I try to exercise to stay in good form.

Q: What is the proudest moment in your career? Can you tell us a short story about someone you’ve helped?

There is one experience that will live with me forever. There was a couple that came to see me for an intrauterine device insertion. The woman told me she was afraid. She had left another hospital after she saw the tools the midwife was going to use because she was afraid.  She asked me if this is something I thought she could bear. And with the training I received, I was able to calm her nerves. And she let me do the procedure. It was wonderful. She was proud of herself. This really touched me.

I was so proud! I was really proud of myself. She was very comfortable with me. She told me, “I didn’t know it would be like this.” I was relieved! She was proud and so was I!

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