Working in the field of cervical cancer prevention in coffee growing communities since 1996, Grounds for Health has been privileged to work with a tremendous number of extraordinary women—as staff, collaborators, donors, students and recipients of care. Ana Aguilera, Boston University Master of Public Health candidate, is currently interning with our program in Peru. She filed this first-hand report from the field as her tribute to International Women’s Day.
March 8th marks the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Created in 1909 in the United States to support women’s labor protests in New York, the day has become a rallying point to build support for women’s rights around the world. As a young woman, I had never really given much thought to this day. Being in Northern Peru and serving as the newest member of the Grounds for Health program team has provided me with a new perspective on the importance of this day.
On this grand day of celebration, the Peru team celebrates our extraordinary advocates who work to keep women in their communities healthy and cervical cancer-free! Here are three special shout-outs to our allies in the fight against cervical cancer, the #1 cancer killer of women in Peru:
Community Health Promoters
As the backbone of our work and the connection between providers, in-country staff and coffee cooperatives, they are instrumental to the success of our programs. They are the reason we are able to reach those women most isolated and often times most forgotten. At our recent community health promoter training in mid-February, twenty two promoters received training in community outreach and health promotion and will be conducting community workshops on cervical cancer prevention this month to prepare women for the upcoming screening campaign in April. That brings us to a grand total of 88 trained promoters in Peru and 785 women screened in four campaigns!
Health Care Providers
After 15 months of hard work, 21 local health care providers have been successfully trained in VIA and cryotherapy in the Chirinos and La Coipa Districts. These doctors and nurses will be key to ensuring that the Single Visit Approach continues long after we complete our work in the region.
The Peru program is fortunate to have three outstanding partners in the coffee industry: Cooperativa Chirinos, CENFROCafe and Cooperativa Sol y Café. They have made the commitment to invest in women and their health, something invaluable for all the families working with these organizations.
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress made and identify the global challenges that lie ahead for women. Sometimes, these challenges can seem insurmountable because they encompass broad goals like gender equality, universal access to health and education, political freedom, etc.
I often think to myself, “what can I, a 22 year-old public health graduate student, really do to make a difference?” I doubt my capabilities at times but am then reminded by those around me of something incredibly important: Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.
I invite you to join me and the rest of the advocates here in Peru by becoming ‘drops’ in the ocean for women’s health. Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day everyday! Talk to your friends about cervical cancer and/or make a donation in the name of a woman you care about. Share our message on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media tool you use. With enough advocates and enough ‘drops’, we can beat cervical cancer and prevent thousands of unnecessary and preventable deaths!
Donate, educate, and add your voice to this international effort. If you’re in the coffee industry, visit us at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event in Seattle, Washington, April 24-27. Our theme is “Healthy Women, Healthy Harvest” and the portrait country for this year’s event is Peru.