LaRocha LaRiviere/Adama Souaré (PCV/Pullo)
October 13th, 2012
Today was the peacecare team’s last day in Saraya; the week has flown by. The visiting Americans have integrated admirably, doing their best to respond to the Senegalese names bestowed upon them (seemingly at random) by the village chief, gamely slogging out en brousse to visit Annē’s host-mother’s peanut fields, sweltering through the heat of the day, sitting through meetings conducted in a hard-to-follow mishmash of languages, playing soccer with local kids, and enjoying the fancy fancy cuisine (no joke, it is deluxe) of the Saraya Hospital. Our Senegalese counterparts have been equally wonderful, working through the strategic planning sessions, sharing their opinions about the upcoming American election, trying out the kids’ jump-ropes, explaining which soap operas are the best soap operas, and leading the screening-day activities out in a few of the more remote villages.
The screening days were low-key, but it’s always good to hear people having productive conversations about reproductive health. In Pulaar and Malinké, local languages that have a dearth of anatomical vocabulary, “cervical cancer” is usually translated as “the sickness of the stomach of the mother of the baby” or “the disease that lives in the birth-place.” The cervical cancer screenings are valuable in and of themselves, and they are also a fantastic opportunity to increase access to basic reproductive health services by providing a culturally appropriate reason for women to visit a health care provider.
I hope that one day preventative cervical cancer screenings will be routine and unremarkable, that no one will need permission from their husband to visit a doctor, and that one day Kédougou will have a gynecologist. (There is currently no gynecologist in the entire region of Kédougou.) Until then, cervical cancer screening and early treatment programs are opening doors not only to cancer prevention but to essential reproductive health information and care, which is invaluable.