This week focused on sexual reproductive health, family planning and youth development. While much of our interactions with these topics will be through the Amour et Vie program (a Population Services International initiative that uses peer educators to teach topics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, sanitation, and family planning), learning about the different methods of contraceptives available in Benin will be crucial to our role in health centers and in prenatal/postnatal consultations.
After a visit from the Mobile Clinic Coordinator at PSI (they sponsor a large bus that drives to rural villages to do free contraceptive consultations, HIV tests and breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings!), we got to do a practicum exercise with local youth to teach about the importance of family planning and its accessibility in Sé. Our group was incredibly responsive to why FP is crucial for the health of not only the mother and child, but also of the family and community as a whole. Everyone participated in a game where we revealed the advantages and drawbacks to each type of birth control available at the local health center (hormonal pills, implants, injections, nonhormonal IUDs, condoms, the necklace) and then practiced putting a condom on a wooden penis. While I had anticipated the subject matter to be taboo, everyone asked great questions and some that through us for a loop.
One of the most cited reasons for family planning here in Benin is to give time for the woman to regain her beauty after a pregnancy. Most of us have some major issues with the underlying belief that woman serve to service men, but it is a great example of the role of women here in Benin. As much as we want F(B)em(enin)ism to be a thing, it is rare and women are viewed as the caretaker and homemaker. Even in my own family, the women cook, clean and provide for my host dad, who has played no role in my interactions with my family.
After successfully completing our final practicum, we were rewarded with several uninterrupted hours of language class (sarcasm) and a fun hands-on activity today. Since arriving in Benin, I've heard so many volunteers preach about the success of their Tippy Tap projects, so I was thrilled when we got to build our own today.
A Tippy Tap is a very simple hand washing station, constructed of three sticks, a bottle and some string. After filling the bottle with water and puncturing a small hole in the bottle, one can slowly wash their hands under the small stream, thus saving water and promoting safe hygiene practices. I plan on building one at the health center in Adourékoman, where there is no running water and we are constantly going outside to wash our hands in a small, and unsanitary, bucket.
Tomorrow is our last day of class and our final Language Proficiency Interview. These are conducted with a trained examiner and our scores are recorded, so the pressure is on!!
As things are winding down here in Sé, preparations for swear in are picking up. My dress is finished for next Thursday and I've been working tirelessly to nail down my speech for Saturday's host family party in Lokossa and the Swear In ceremony at the embassy next week. Although it will be broadcast on national television and radio, we won't be able to bring cameras into the embassy, but the official photographer will be sure to get lots of pictures. Until then, here's a sneak peek at my language for the next two years!!
E kona ko e kushe titi!