Benin Weekly Awesome: Training Mothers to be Leaders in Malaria Prevention

Leader Mother, Louise Gandeme, presenting to the health staff about the causes of Malaria.

Leader Mother, Louise Gandeme, presenting to the health staff about the causes of Malaria.

My Care Group is one of my favorite projects because it involves empowering women to better take care of themselves, their families, and their communities. We call these volunteers Leader Mothers. After receiving training, each of our Leader Mothers educates ten other women in the community on those same topics.

In the month of April, in honor of World Malaria Day, we trained the Leader Mothers on malaria symptoms, prevention and treatment. The Leader Mothers have rarely reached secondary school levels in education and are able to learn, retain and teach complicated health subjects. I give all the credit of accomplishing this feat to my counterpart, Damienne, she is a trained community health educator for the social services and an expert at making complicated health topics easily understandable in rural communities.

We focused on using visual aids and songs to train our Leader Mothers. With Damienne’s guidance, the women composed songs in Fon, their local language, about prompt care seeking, recognizing the symptoms of malaria in their children and sleeping under a mosquito net.

At the end of April, their malaria training culminated in the women giving a practice presentation to the staff of our local health center. During the session, the staff enthusiastically gave feedback and in turn, refreshed their own knowledge about malaria. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it was fulfilling to have helped facilitate a dialogue between highly educated health workers and well-informed, but illiterate Leader Mothers.

Peace Corps Volunteer Sandy Noel (back row, left) and Damienne Akpako (back row, third from the left) with Leader Mothers who earned their certificates.

Peace Corps Volunteer Sandy Noel (back row, left) and Damienne Akpako (back row, third from the left) with Leader Mothers who earned their certificates.

I organized an opening ceremony to officially present the Leader Mothers to the community authorities. The adjunct mayor, the village chief, the region’s doctor, the health center staff, and the police chief attended. During the ceremony, the women gave a presentation about malaria, proving their legitimacy and knowledge on community education to the village’s authorities.

After the women’s presentation, Damienne and I distributed certificates to the women. Though it was a simple certificate easily made at the printer’s office, it was hard earned for Leader Mothers and the first diploma any of them had ever earned. The women were so energized and excited to display their certificates that they led a spontaneous march around the entire village, singing the malaria prevention songs to show that were ready to serve their community. And it will only get better from here!

written by: Sandy Noel