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CAMEROON: How Buses Can Stop the Spread of STIs

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Posted March 28, 2017 from Cameroon

Sally Maforchi Mboumien'sinnovative idea could change the way women and girls access sexual and reproductive health care.

“In Cameroon today...people don’t talk about the role of contraception in preventing pregnancy and STI transmission.

Once, while traveling on a commercial bus from the capital city Yaounde to Bamenda, Cameroon, I witnessed with keen interest the lessons given there on the bus.

During an eight-hour journey, six hawkers took turns advertising their products to us, the travelers. Common among this group of marketers was that each had at least a product or two they claimed treated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as helped with the proper functioning of one’s sex organ.

I was particularly captivated by the eloquence with which these vendors danced through their descriptions of various medical issues using heavy medical and biological terms. Their lectures were highly animated and left us convinced they knew what they were talking about.

Passengers posed questions to the hawkers and shared worries related to various STIs, claiming their interest was on behalf of a friend or a relation. Afterward, sale of the products began. Some of these products were African panaxia, ginseng powder, king seed, lion kola, “Lotionlistic,” just to mention a few.

I observed with disbelief as passengers bought products from these vendors, saying they were going to help a neighbor, family member, or friend. Amazingly, people bought the same product for the treatment of at least five or more diseases. I was deeply concerned at what I was witnessing.

In order to understand what motivated my fellow passengers to trust such sources when it came to their sexual and reproductive health, I decided to talk to some of them. The first person I spoke to, an undergraduate student, confessed to me, “I know some of these things are fake, but it is better than going to the hospital to be arrogantly interrogated by medical personnel.”

Next, I spoke with a young girl who was apparently suffering from an advanced stage of vaginal infection. She said to me, “The way this guy explained the manifestation of the disease, it is just like we live together because that’s exactly what I am going through. I believe his medicine will solve my problem.”

Then I spoke with another young woman. She told me she had been to the hospital and was diagnosed with chlamydia. When I asked why she bought the product on the bus instead of following treatment prescribed at the hospital, she said, “It is very expensive, Auntie.”

Finally, I spoke to one of the vendors about his product. He told me it was effective and went on to say, “If I have money today, it is thanks to products for the treatment of STIs because people are suffering. Auntie, don’t mind when people are claiming they are buying for others. They usually call back to buy more.”

This experience left me with a burden in my heart. Most of the buyers on the bus were elders, and if they suffer from such ignorance around the treatment of STIs, then what of the young who rely on their knowledge on such issues? It seemed to me that ignorance on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in Cameroon had made many vulnerable to false advertising while enriching the heartless.

In Cameroon today, there is limited access to SRH education, and people don’t talk about the role of contraception in preventing pregnancy and STI transmission. Only abstinence, which is hardly practiced, is frequently discussed, most likely because of religious and cultural stances that forbid the use of contraceptives.

Though the government provides mother and child care to ensure low rates of maternal and infant mortality, there are no services at present that can be accessed for unbiased information on SRH.

There on the bus I asked myself, how could I use this situation to replace ignorance with knowledge?

Instead of allowing crooks to use buses to sell fake drugs, I could design a program to educate the public on reproductive health issues on these same buses. A large number of people from diverse backgrounds and geographical locations travel by bus in Cameroon. Buses could, therefore, serve as a good place for sharing basic information on SRH issues and helping spread this knowledge to different populations and locations.

On these vehicles, I have a vision ofcarrying out discussions on topics such as anatomy and physiology of the sex organs, types and sources of common infections, locations of treatment centers, and more. Such mobile trainings would greatly increase SRH awareness and reduce misconceptions, thereby saving many from infections, unwanted pregnancies, crude abortions, sexual abuse, and early motherhood.

In order to achieve this dream, I have started speaking with managers of commercial bus services, health care workers, and some health centers about collaborating on this campaign.

This will be an opportunity to start a nation-wide conversation on SRH education among people from all walks of life. We will spread awareness of these issues and start building momentum. We’ll begin to advocate for universal sexual and reproductive health rights in Cameroon.

Commercial buses, if well exploited, can be social health clinics. By providing proper orientation, counseling, and unbiased information on these matters in these spaces, the people of my community—especially women and girls—will no longer suffer at the hands of ignorance and fear. They will be empowered to responsiblytake their health into their own hands.


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Comments 32

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Leina
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Powerful vision  Sally!!!

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Thank you sis!!!!!!!

Aramide Oikelome
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Brilliant idea Sally!

Thank you for taking this proactive measure to educate and enpower our women and girls. You are a Changemaker!

Keep the flag flying!

Blessings!

Aramide

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Hello Aramide thanks for those kind words. We are in this together!!!!!!!

Sophie Ngassa
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Dear Sally,

I happy you have touched this issue. You really have a great vision, keep on the good work.

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Thanks Sophie for the encouragement

Ese Ajuyah
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Hi Sally,

This is a really great idea you have going!

Well done!1

Wish you all the best.

Ese

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Ese dear thank you. keep supporting it too

Mbithi
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Sally that is powerful.Keep it rolling

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Thanks Mbithi I will keep it rolling

Manmeet Kaur
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

This is terrific! There is a huge lack of information around sexual and reproductive health around the world and it is extremely heartening to see such a wonderful initiative by you! love and positivity to you.

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Sis ManmeetK for sure there is a huge lack of information around the subject which many are suffering and paying dearly for it

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Hi  Masalien

It's true that many people have lost faith in the health care systems. So this is such a wonderful idea. It's a space that people will be comfortable with and ask all the necessary  questions. It's a great incentive.  Keep up the good work my dear sister. Stay blessed

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 03, 2017
Apr 03, 2017

Hello Anita I am glad you believe in my vision. Thanks for those words of encouragement. I am positive many will get to benefit from this move

Natasha L
Mar 31, 2017
Mar 31, 2017

Wow Sally your are building your dream of women and girls being empowered to responsibly take their health into their own hands.  I love this plan of yours for commercial buses to be like travelling social health clinics. What a brilliant idea. Fear and ignorance will be dispelled through this innovation.  Keep on being the inspiration for change, Sally!  You have started on this project and your are unstoppable.

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 03, 2017
Apr 03, 2017

'Fear and ignorance will be dispelled through this innovation.' Yes Natasha that's the rationale behind this move

QueenVirtuous
Apr 01, 2017
Apr 01, 2017

Dear Sally,

This is definitely a brilliant idea. Social health clinics and hospitals certainly are not doing enough to educate people about SRH or help them cope with STI, and this is a burden on my heart too. I like your idea, I do. I believe you can make a change in this manner. You go, girl!

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 03, 2017
Apr 03, 2017

Queen my dear i appreciate your vote of support. Let's exploit this space and see how much change we can get for women/girls and the community as a whole

LillianVB
Apr 03, 2017
Apr 03, 2017

Dear Sally,

This is how great ideas are born, instead of feeling helpless about the situation you decided to seize the opportunity and challenge yourself to the task. That is a winning strategy! - best wishes.

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 03, 2017
Apr 03, 2017

Yes sister in every challenge there is an opportunity so let's make a change

Immaculate Amoit
Apr 04, 2017
Apr 04, 2017

Wow, Sally that is a really transformative idea,

Keep going

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 04, 2017
Apr 04, 2017

Immah dear, it is truly transformative and my vision is to see many women and girls transformed through this move

Adanna
Apr 06, 2017
Apr 06, 2017

Dear Masalien,

Nice one! I like how you seized the opportunity sister. 

You will be amazed at the number of people who will benefit from this brilliant idea.

Well done.

Love,

Adanna

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 15, 2017
Apr 15, 2017

Thanks for the encouragement sis. This fight needs a wider audience for any effective change to take place.

Joule L'Adara
Apr 07, 2017
Apr 07, 2017

So inspiring. I'm touched by your creative solution to such a big problem! 

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 15, 2017
Apr 15, 2017

Thanks sis.

Anne Dupont
Apr 11, 2017
Apr 11, 2017

Sally,

What a powerful idea!  I love the idea of a mobile social health clinic--what a great use of bus time that could have long lasting impact!  Keep us informed of how it goes and how we can help you. What a Change Leader you are!

Warmly,

Anne

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 15, 2017
Apr 15, 2017

Dear Anne we must use every space to get the results we want. I will inform you people soonest

Chelsea Maricle
Apr 14, 2017
Apr 14, 2017

Sally, what a compelling vision! Please keep us updated as you move forward to making your vision a reality. Let us know what you need and how we your global sisters can support you!

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Apr 15, 2017
Apr 15, 2017

Sis thank you for the support. I will let the community know in the days ahead

Krho
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

This is a great idea Sally! Too many are afraid of the shame of seeking treatment in hospital and other's can't afford it. I hope that this will reach out far and wide to all those who are in need. Keep us updated and let us know how we can support in any way. 

Clodine Mbuli Shei
Jul 14, 2017
Jul 14, 2017

Dear Sister,

This is such an eye opener. Thank you dearly for this. And the vision

"On these vehicles, I have a vision of carrying out discussions on topics such as anatomy and physiology of the sex organs..."

I support this so much. Thank u