Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI), within the past two years, has partnered with Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH) to help financially and administratively support two WMI hubs, MAWDEG and Matuwa. These loan hubs are located near the AAH primary school and Matuwa clinic and have been able to benefit from the many activities sponsored by both WMI and AAH.
In July, AAH kick started its 10th Anniversary celebration. On July 22, as a part of its celebrations, the AAH clinic held free cervical cancer screenings, and then discounted screenings for the remainder of the week.
While most city, and now even some village, clinics offer similar services regularly, Matuwa is an extremely remote area. One AAH volunteer describes the location:
“No public transportation will go to this area, so you have to take a boda boda (motorcycle). If there is even a hint of rain, you cannot travel, but if you are lucky and it is sunny your boda boda will travel at about 20 miles per hour—which is extremely slow given that I regularly ride ones that travel close to 100 mph—weaving in and out of the ditches that pockmark the dirt road. These roads, if they can even be called that, climb almost vertically up the side of a mountain. After riding across an entire mountain range, and after about 40 minutes, you will reach Matuwa, which is situated below the peak of a mountain and overlooks nearly all of Uganda.”
Given its remoteness, before the clinic came to Matuwa most people did not have access to health care. Even still, it is hard to get many supplies to their clinic. So, this free cancer screening is an enormous step forward for the community.
When the AAH staff reached the Matuwa clinic at 10:00am, there was already a crowd of women gathered around the clinic. Chairs were scarce given the number of women present: Women were sitting two to a seat, and many were sprawled out on the ground. Like most things in Uganda, the process of registering, and then actually screening these women, took an inordinate amount of time; it took hours to get through the line that had already formed. Nonetheless, the women camped out on the clinic grounds, preparing to give up their whole day in order to have a chance at early cancer detection.
Several months earlier, WMI provided a similar service for their borrowers. Over 145 women were examined at that time. At the Matuwa screening the WMI women, identifiable by their colorful WMI polo’s, were numerous among the crowd of women in front of the cli nic. While some of these women actually were waiting to be screened, most were running back and forth between the clinic and the Matuwa trading center, bringing more women to be screened. When Jackline Nelemo, a WMI borrower, was asked what she was doing, she said that they were trying to convince others, given their own experiences, that the wait and the discomfort of the screening were well worth knowing more about your body. By the end of the day, over 114 women had come from across the District to be tested.
It was great to see that WMI women were using this second cancer screening as a way to share the opportunity they had already been given with the rest of the community. WMI’s mission is to support rural women and then use these women as catalysts for change in their homes and in their communities (and hopefully in their countries as well!). And this could be beautifully seen during these screenings: WMI creates a small pool of strong, empowered women – ones who can achieve their career goals, be financially independent, support their families, and be in control of their bodies, but also ones that will feel motivated to teach others to do the same.