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Army of Women Educates on Trachoma in Ethiopia

Mebrit Kasua and one of her children at her home in the Tigray Province of northern Ethiopia. Mebrit is a leader in the health development army of women in the Tigray province of northern Ethiopia. The women fight trachoma by providing accurate education

An army of women” in Ethiopia has been recruited to teach friends and neighbors how to prevent trachoma, an eye disease that’s preventable but still very common in many parts of Ethiopia. The confederation of national development NGO’s -- Light For The World – has been working to implement national eye health initiatives to prevent trachoma and other eye diseases through the World Health Organization’s initiative “VISION 2020—the right to sight”.

One major step in preventing trachoma is to educate local communities on the causes and prevention of trachoma.

Light For the World and its partners train at the local level, through such initiatives as Ethiopia’s “Army of Women.” Mebrit Kasua is a 20-year-old wife, mother of two small children and a leader of the Health Development Army in her community, “an army of women” fighting diseases with medicine and knowledge.

A Light for the World program officer who helps train the “Army of Women, Kalikidan Ketsela, translated Mebrit’s description of the day’s work in the Tigray region, as a member of the family and a soldier in the Health Development Army.

“After she wakes up, she directly goes to the cleaning of the latrine, the compound, and the house and the materials. After that she goes with her husband to the field for plowing, for weeding, and for whatever activities. After that she returns back to home...preparing coffee,” explained Ketsela.

Even after these morning activities, the day is still young for Mebrit. Ketsela added that in addition to preparing meals for the day, Mebrit is a role model for her family and community.

“Above all, she has a social role. She’s the head of the Women Development Army, so whenever she gets a chance she goes to the people and sees that if there is a pregnant mother, if there is a sick mother, she counsels them and advises them to go to the health posts,” highlighted Ketsela.

She also pointed out that Mebrit wants to make sure the other mothers understand the importance of keeping the family’s hands and faces clean, as well as the home environment.

“First, she says that I will focus on the cleaning of the compound and face washing. I will tell them that you have to wash your faces because trachoma comes through flies and if there is a dirty face it will be a good place for trachoma transmission. So, I just tell them to wash their faces and to construct latrines and to use latrines. So this is like the key message for the discussion,” said Ketsela interpreting for Mebrit.

It is a big responsibility to head the Women’s Development Army for her community, but Mebrit takes her job seriously because she knows she is looked upon as an example.

“I am the key leader for the 13 householders and I am one of the examples for the other group members and when we have meetings, I just share my experience to the group members and invite them to see what I am doing, and to learn by seeing what I am doing,” Mebrit explained through Ketsela.

Light For The World and its partners work in Ethiopia and other developing countries where Trachoma is the primary cause of blindness. Light For The World emphasis that acting now to prevent trachoma will help them reach their goal of eradicating the disease worldwide by 2020.