“Women and children depend on me.”
Reproductive healthcare is urgently needed in Burkina Faso. There, a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications every three hours. Yet despite these risks, women are often prohibited by men from making decisions about their own healthcare. This includes whether to use contraception.
In the face of stigma and opposition from community and religious leaders, courageous MSI Ladies like Julienne and Arlette offer women a lifeline.
Meet the MSI Ladies – mobile midwives making a difference
MSI Ladies are midwives or nurses who receive training from MSI country programs. Then, these bold women deliver reproductive healthcare directly in their communities.
The local MSI Lady could be someone’s sister, aunt or neighbor. Because they live in the communities they serve, they know how to meet women’s needs in that specific context.
Arlette Naba, an MSI Lady working in Burkina Faso, explains: “There is a real closeness with the women. We try to get closer to the women who are really in need of family planning.”
Going further to deliver reproductive healthcare
Stigma and misconceptions about contraception often prevent women from accessing reproductive healthcare services. That’s why MSI Ladies travel wherever they’re needed to deliver services in discrete environments.
MSI Lady, Julienne, says many of her clients in rural Burkina Faso attend vaccination clinics for the children they already have. Then, under the cover of nightfall, they stay at the health center to access contraception.
“The women I serve are not the kind who worry about what kind of moisturizer to use to get a nice glow. They are submissive women who don’t have the last word in their households. Women chained to a grim fate, who live entirely for their children.”
Arlette describes the lengths some women will go to in or to access contraception: “A 26-year-old mother of four heard about MSI on the radio and walked 44km to get to a health center just to find out when our team would be passing. Fortunately, I was providing services that day and she was able to choose the method that was close to her heart.”
Distance and social stigma are just some of the obstacles our MSI Ladies face. With a laugh, Julienne also explains some of the logistical challenges they face delivering services in rural communities.
“Power cuts are very common here. We’re used to them, so I have my headlamp on. As soon as the power cuts, I put it on and continue.”
Giving women a better future
Living alongside the women in their community, Julienne and Arlette see the suffering that the lack of access to contraception causes. They are determined to do what they can to make women’s lives better.
Julienne remembers one client’s determination to give her daughter a better future: “The story that really stays with me is a 13-year-old girl called Doris. Her mom was one of my clients and accompanied her to receive a family planning method. Despite being illiterate, she understood the importance of family planning for her daughter. Her one wish was that her daughter’s life would be better than hers.”
Julienne and Arlette know how much women depend on them. “If our funding ran out, it would cause real suffering,” said Julienne. “The birth rate would increase; women’s life expectancy would decrease and the mortality rate of children under two would rise.”
However, having fought for the women in their community all their lives, Julienne and Arlette remain undeterred.
“I tell myself that the lives of women and children depend on me,” says Julienne, “and that motivates me more than anything.”
The recent funding cuts by the UK government put Julienne and Arlette’s critical work at risk. We’re counting on generous donors to help fund the gap. With your help, we can ensure women in Burkina Faso continue to have the opportunities choice brings.