I'm sitting in the back of a community building- rows of old, donated cafeteria tables & benches in a line. A woman walks in with a broom made of palm leaves to sweep out the dirt and dust. A community healthcare worker uses an old towel to wipe down the tables & benches. A nurse gathers her materials to prepare.
And then the singing starts. The women walk around the entrance of the building, singing familiar songs in Creole. This signals the start of a Women's Group. Slowly but surely, over the next 15 minutes, women trickle in, some carrying young children on their hips. The songs end and the nurse welcomes everyone. And so the Group begins.
The heart and hope of these groups is to educate women. Bring them together in a safe space to discuss women's issues. Create a space where they can ask questions, bring up scenarios, and just talk. While it is led by a nurse and community healthcare worker, the women themselves help direct the conversation.
The community is called Ti-Charite. Each woman here has had at least one child, the oldest woman in the group says she has 6 living children. Many have lost a child. Topics discussed include the importance of prenatal care, potential birth complications, vaccinations, family planning, sexually transmitted infections, and vitamins/diet. And stories.
Stories here are so powerful. The women speak of their personal experiences, and things they have seen in their neighbourhoods. Difficulties in birth, children being sick, life and death. They have seen so much. After a long string of stories, the session ends with this piece of wisdom: as women, we have been given the gift of motherhood. Let us use it to encourage other women to make wise choices and lead our families well.
It is an incredible thing to witness women equipping other women to lead. Hoping to remove fear and usher in positivity and encouragement. These women will continue to meet over the next 6 weeks. At the end of their meetings, we will celebrate and acknowledge what we have learned with the hope that these women will affect immense amount of change in their homes and communities.