Madagascar: Improving Health by Empowering Women

 {Photo credit: MSH}Rasoanirina leading a meeting in her village.Photo credit: MSH

Solange Helene Rasoanirina is an active and motivated member of her community. Along with community health volunteers, the 24-year-old has become a reference for health in Masiakakoho, a remote village in southeastern Madagascar’s Tataho commune in Manakara II district.

Rasoanirina was trained in leadership, raising awareness, health messages, and gender values in June 2014 by the USAID/Madagascar MIKOLO project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID|Mikolo aims to promote community-based health services. At the end of the training Rasoanirina was promoted to a Woman Leader and has organized group discussions with “Ampela Mikolo,” a women’s association that supports behavior change for better health.

As a result, women of Masiakakoho have begun spreading health messages to fellow villagers. Ensuring proper hygiene is a key point. Open defecation is widespread, but more people are using toilets and they are also boiling water so it’s potable at home. The women encourage parents to consult with community health volunteers and seek advice and treatment when their children are sick. Consultations have increased significantly in recent months. Volunteers have conducted more than 1,327 weighing sessions for children under the age of five. In addition, 235 children have been treated for fever, 110 for acute respiratory infection, and 20 for diarrhea.

Roger Randriantsontso, the local USAID|MIKOLO-trained community health volunteer, has seen behavior change among people who are more aware of their health problems through the help of people such as Rasoanirina. He says:

She helped me a lot in educating people. Rasoanirina even participates in educating them whenever she sees them.

Rasoanirina’s previous experiences in other health and microfinance programs have helped her acquire the necessary skills to lead and take action in her community. For example, she leads a 22-member village savings and credit association, which has helped members improve their living conditions with the money they save. This enabled Rasoanirina to invest in beekeeping, and she has been able to supply honey periodically to the honey exporter Miellerie de Manaraka.

USAID|MIKOLO has trained 120 women leaders and empowered them to take on more responsibilities. Rasoanirina says: 

I like assisting and giving advice. All the experience I received from MIKOLO and other programs from the last few years will enable me to go further.

With a women-focused approach, the project aims to promote gender equality at the community level. USAID|MIKOLO encourages couples to share responsibilities and work together on health issues at home. The project enables women to spread health education and encourages men to be involved.