Bold women take aim at the status quo

January 27, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Kieran McConville

As women-led changes gain momentum around the world, we wanted to give a special shout-out to four African women whose work is transforming lives across their communities. Talk about women power!

Chief Tity Gbondo

Chief Tity Gbondo, Tikonko, Sierra Leone

Chief Tity Gbondo supports Concern’s Essential Newborn Care Corps program, which has retrained 200 traditional birth attendants in Bo District to become Maternal and Newborn Health Promoters. Photo: Kieran McConville

In Tikonko, a village in the Bo district of Sierra Leone, lives the formidable Chief Tity Gbondo. Sierra Leone has one of the world’s highest rates of death for newborns and pregnant moms — a statistic that Chief Gbondo set out to help change. Concern had already been working with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) in the village as part of its project to retrain 200 TBAs to become Maternal Newborn Health Promoters (MNHPs). MNHPs make home visits to check on pregnant moms and newborns, and refer them to the formal health system for medical care when necessary. To further encourage the women of the community to use clinics for antenatal checks, delivery, and postnatal care, Chief Gbondo created and enforced bylaws in her community. The result? The women and children in Tikonko are not only surviving, but thriving.

Kadiatu S Kouyateh

Kadiatu S Kouyateh and committee members outside a community latrine and shower facility managed by the committee in Montserrado County, Liberia

Kadiatu S Kouyateh with water and sanitation committee members outside a community latrine and shower facility that they oversee in Montserrado County, Liberia. For years this area has struggled with poor drainage and a lack of sanitation facilities. Photo: Kieran McConville

Kadiatu S Kouyateh is passionate about her community — and sanitation. Zonto Town, Liberia, is home to around 15,000 people and was once blighted by open defecation and flooding, which in turn led to high levels of illness, crippling this extremely vulnerable community. As chairwoman of the Zonto Town community water and sanitation committee, Kadiatu worked with Concern to oversee the construction of a public toilet facility, the clearance and construction of drainage canals, the implementation of a proper garbage disposal system, and the mass education of community members on good hygiene and sanitation practices. “I love my country and my community,” she says. “This is how I can make a difference.”

Onesta Banda

Lead mothers lined up in Malawi

Onesta Banda with a group of lead mothers in the village of Dzidzwa, Mchingi District, Malawi. These women have been very effective in influencing parents to rethink their approach to child nutrition and issues of health and sanitation. Photo: Kieran McConville

In Mbachundu, Malawi, Onesta Banda is on a mission to end malnutrition, one household at a time. As a health promoter in the Support Nutrition Improvement Component project, she trains “lead mothers” — women who teach a diverse range of subjects, from good nutrition and hygiene practices to family planning, all of which impact rates of malnutrition. Each of the 15 lead mothers is responsible for ten households, for a total of 150 households under Onesta’s leadership. Since they got started, these women have encouraged the digging of pit latrines and assisted in garbage disposal and the building of market gardens, all of which help diversify diets and boost livelihoods. And these dynamic women show no signs of stopping!

Tasam Haileselasie

Tasam Haileselasie tracks contributions and withdrawals of local micro-loans in Megera, Ethiopia

Tasam Haileselasie is the chairwoman of the Savings & Credit Co-Op in Megera in Northern Ethiopia. She tracks contributions and withdrawals of local micro-loans, which allow villagers to borrow three times their savings. Photo: Kieran McConville

High in the foggy hills of Northern Ethiopia is the village of Megera, where family farmers gather in a small communal building under the watchful eye of Tasam Haileselasie. This is the Megera Savings and Credit Co-Op. Established with support from Concern in 2008, its membership has since risen from 63 to 432 and its impact on this highland community is plain to see. Tasam not only oversees the savings and borrowings of members, but encourages them to expand and invest in livelihood activities. From new crops and farming methods to masonry and construction training, these investments have ensured that Megera is a community on the rise — thanks to the direction and guidance of people like Tasam.

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