For International Development Week 2020, we are showcasing the impact that our member organizations are having around the world. This blog post from Will Postma, Executive Director, PWRDF is the first in a special series. Make sure to read it and share it with your network!
Virginie Nizigama is one of many exceptional local women who volunteers at the Village Health Works clinic in Kigutu, Burundi. It’s hard to miss her when you tour the clinic. There she is explaining new varieties of maize, onion and beans and how they can best grow with organic fertilizers. “No outside fertilizer needed!” There’s Virginie again, with other women, milking the cows, tending to the pigs and the chickens and collecting the eggs (there were 32 on the day we visited with her) to give to the patients. As for the milk, that’s also for the patients who need it. And there’s Virginie, telling women and men how to diversify their diets, grow the best varieties of vegetables so they won’t need to come to the clinics as often, and keep their children healthy for school. “We can’t eat manioc all the time,” she patiently explains to the others. It grows easily and quickly on the hills around Kigutu but so can many other plants that are much more nutritious.
Village Health Works is one of four Maternal, Newborn and Child Health partners in PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) program, made possible with the support of Global Affairs Canada and Canadians across the country. Clean water, safe births, increased income, trained community health workers, greater awareness of reproductive rights and accessible neo-natal programming are just a few of the results that the AMCC program has made possible in Burundi, as well as in Rwanda, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Across VHW’s program we see the nit and grit of women’s empowerment, addressing on Sustainable Development Goals #3 (health and well-being) and #5 (gender equality). Women meet together to talk about the design of expectant mothers’ homes. “Keep the sinks higher so we don’t need to bend down too much,” they advise. “Space the beds in the houses just so; the windows should be here; let’s build the expectant mothers’ homes closer to the maternity ward itself.” Here mothers can stay during the days before they give birth, get the care they need and not have to walk long distances over the many hills to deliver their child in a safe, clean environment.
I continue to hear the encouraging words of Virginie to all around her. “I want to give back, I love being able to share whatever I know. It’s my passion, my hope for all of us to be healthy and educated and to help others,” she says. Then she turns to get back to the business at hand. “Now, let me show you how you can plant and grow bananas…”