Women's World Health Initiative's (WWHI) efforts are bringing exciting transformations to the lives of women in the Saraya District of Senegal, West Africa.
Dana Allison, Executive Director, and four dedicated staff members (Nate Gilmore, Christy Boyer, Cathy Larson, Meagan Gilmore) travelled to Saraya to investigate programs and their development. Another key component of the visit was to expand key stakeholder involvement in an ongoing project aimed at reducing the high levels of maternal and infant mortality in the area.
WWHI's operations are built on the foundation of strategic partnerships - local, governmental and private enterprise. Additionally, WWHI supports community ownership and the up scaling of current community led and run initiatives through mediums of social enterprise. These, it believes, provides for a more sustainable development approach.
An example of these combined approaches in delivering its objectives is the commencement of a large scale anemia study. Anemia, endemic and a major contributor to poor pregnancy outcomes, need to be mapped. WWHI and its partners will be collecting baseline data from approximately 40,000 people within the district. The findings will then be used to focus intervention and prevention programs utilizing local expertise and knowledge. This phase of WWHI's objectives is being planned in partnership with local community healthcare workers and a multinational exploration company, Oromin, working in the area.
Another example of WWHI's collaborative and up scaling strategy is its partnering with a near 250 strong women's group. This group runs and manages a highly productive agricultural farm that provides food and much needed income. Much like a cooperative, it enhances the collective economic power of women, their influence in the community and their capacity to determine health choices for women in the district.
A major accomplishment of the group has been its ability to leverage its number and newly found collective voice in incentivizing men to have their wives deliver children in hospitals. There is now a financial penalty in place which fines the men whose wives do not have a hospital childbirth, the cost of which is greater than if the childbirth took place in hospital.
Commenting on her recent fact finding visit to Saraya, Dana Allison said "We are very proud of the incredible partnerships and level of community buy-ins we've achieved in Saraya over the weeks we were there. I believe we are building a highly sustainable program that will transform the lives of women, children and generations yet unborne. To see the level of local initiatives already in place and ready for us to help upscale is very rewarding. The future looks very bright indeed"
Indeed it does.