An acquaintance with our new partners: Mary Joy and Beza in Ethiopia

This year the government of Ethiopia started the Ethiopian Female Cancer Initiative, with an overall objective to “reduce mortality and morbidity from breast and cervical cancer in selected zones of Oromia and Southern Nations and Addis Ababa Regions of Ethiopia”.

One of the collaborations that were established for this initiative is the one between Cordaid, the Female Cancer Foundation and two local partners. Last week I met our two local partners for the first time: Mary Joy in Addis Ababa and Beza in Yirg Alem, a small town in the Southern Nations. They will be responsible for the Tell that precedes the See & Treat. Nurses in local health centres will be trained and provide the screening for cervical (pre) cancer.

To tell about cervical cancer, to create awareness, to mobilise and educate women (and men), is an essential part of cervical cancer prevention as a whole. To carry this out effectively (to reach women, to spread the correct information, to discuss sensible information in an open manner) in every new culture and community you try to support, is a challenge.

But not for Mary Joy and Beza, it seems. During one meeting, I became strongly confronted with what “reduce mortality and morbidity from breast and cervical cancer in selected zones of Oromia and Southern Nations and Addis Ababa Regions of Ethiopia” actually means. Two groups of HIV positive women were having their periodical meetings. It started with education on female cancer from a nurse and Beza volunteer. They invited me to join the meeting and answer some questions on female cancer and reproductive health. When I write ‘invited’ I mean they started to sing and clap to encourage me to walk the stage. Many questions were asked, many important issues were discussed.

It was moving how just a short amount of my time, was of such an importance for these women. They already started queuing for the cervical cancer screening. It was impressive how eager these women were for good health care and health education. To thank FCF, the Beza volunteers performed a drama on a woman with cervical cancer. And of course, there was a lot of dancing. To celebrate the coming up of the See & Treat program!