Mobile Health: Connecting women to a better future
My name is Sahaletou Marie YELEBO, I am 27 years old and I live in Kara, a town in northern Togo. I am in charge of the CHW (Community Health Workers) program in an NGO named AED- Lidaw. This NGO runs a clinic for people living with HIV. Internet helped me find and obtain this job and also is a large part of the work I do now. My daily work demands internet use. Internet not only helps me for my job but also helps all of the patients we are working with. I can see that in the future, the internet could help us expand health services to more patients beyond Kara into more rural areas.
The first time I used internet was in high school when I heard about Facebook. My friends and I chose Saturdays to go to the Cybercafé, the only one in my town at the time, and we made a lot of friends from around the world. But a couple years later, when I arrived at the University of Kara, my use of the Internet changed; I start using it for research. My university had teachers that came from other countries for a week at a time, to give us the course materials for a year, and then leave. The only way to succeed was to use the Internet, to learn on our own, so I discovered Google and other websites for law and political science research. Outside of school, I discovered a whole world of cultures mixing on the internet. I read a lot about human rights, women rights, and people’s experiences in other countries. Living in Togo since I was child did not allow me to know what was going on somewhere else without visiting there. Now, I travel a lot every day
with the Internet.
As coordinator of Community Health Workers (CHW), my job is to collaborate with the clinic, identify patients who need follow up visits, and then send the CHWs on the necessary home visits. I am in charge of training and supervising the 16 CHWs as well as connecting and analyzing their data. One challenge I face is planning and reporting all of the work done by the CHWs, since each month I have to type all of the data from their paper forms on to my computer. However, I recently started using Commcare, a mobile health app which replaces the paper forms that CHWs used to use. I have been working with all of my colleagues and many MIT students on this. I am happy right now to say that the Commcare application will collect data so that I will not have to type it anymore, and will give better, mistake-free data. Best of all, we created forms and questions about what CHWs need to know, as well as information they need to feed back to us through the phones, and all of this is automatic! They fill out forms during home visits and I receive them when they are uploaded through Wi-Fi during our weekly meetings. Simple and easy.
I can see a lot of advantages for me, as coordinator of the program, for CHWs, and for patients. For me, I can gain a lot of time to do other work that can help the clinic, I can supervise CHWs often and easily, and I can perform my initiatives by updating forms and giving quality reports. For the CHWs, they can reach more patients, they can make a quality visits with all the necessary information, and Commcare can remind them what questions to ask according to each patient. Then, they can deliverer great reports back about patients, which is very important for the clinic staff. For patients, they all get high quality, personalized care.
One of our visions at AED is to give access to healthcare to everybody who comes to us. Commcare is a great way to contribute to this vision. However, my vision is even larger. I have dedicated my life to gender equality in Togo, and I think that health care a really important part, but the internet can contribute even more.
I can feel today that I am mastering my work, and that I am able to run the cycle of the program I am coordinating. I have noticed how professional I am becoming with the internet as a new crucial element in my life and work. I feel more confident because I feel like I have something to share and teach – I am the expert at work. We have a lack of women capacity in our society, but having all this skills, being able to participate in decision making at work or at home, is showing just how smart women are. If a woman has an opportunity to learn something like the Internet which can increase her skills set, I am sure that she will succeed and master it, since all that holding back brilliant women in Togo now is a lack of opportunity. In this way our society, especially young girls, will believe that women can accomplish anything that they put in their mind to.
I am lucky that I found a job, which combines my passion for health and equality with my technical skills. I believe that the important work of the future will be about human right and equality, but the jobs will all demands technical knowledge. It is my hope that girls growing up in Togo now will get the opportunity to work with both just like I have, to continue proving the worth in Togo and pushing our country forward.