There are rural pockets of certain African countries that have a limited understanding of the coronavirus pandemic – and myths, misinformation and fake news is killing people.
However, a group of young women working in remote parts of Zambia are determined to spread awareness, understanding and help people from these communities stay safe.
Tisyenji ‘Tisi’ Ngoma is one of these women. The district chair of the CAMFED Association – a group that supports female education – Tisi has made it her mission to disrupt the myths and rumours that are leaving vulnerable people at risk.
‘We’ve been making up posters that break down some of the myths, because we have realised that most of our community members have not received information about the seriousness of Covid-19, especially in the rural areas,’ Tisi tells Metro.co.uk.
Wearing face masks has been mandatory in Zambia since mid-April, but it’s hard for news to reach rural areas without any connectivity.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
‘People will come up to us to say, “Why are you wearing those masks?”,’ says Tisi. ‘So we take it as our responsibility to educate people, making posters and sharing health information on social media.
‘We reach out to our communities through channels we have long established – through people who are known in their communities.
‘And whenever we reach out to communities we go through traditional leaders, who lend us extra authority.’
Tisi strongly believes that knowledge is power. When she lost her father as a child, she became the breadwinner for her family and three younger siblings. She could have dropped out of school and been forced into early marriage, but the support she had to continue with her education changed her life.
Now, Tisi is a university graduate with her own bakery business. Her income has allowed her to support her siblings and three other students through school. And she now works with other young women through the CAMFED Association.
‘We also go to radio stations, right now we are pushing to go on air regularly,’ says Tisi.
‘We know radios have got a very large coverage, and whenever we go there we rest assured that thousands of people will be able to listen to what we have to say about important issues, like the coronavirus.’
Tisi and her fellow volunteers are doing everything they can to keep these communities safe. In Kasama, Kaoma and other districts, members have been making face masks that have been distributed in the towns – they are also available at police checkpoints, and the women provide information about protecting yourself from the virus.
The numbers of cases of coronavirus in Zambia and other African countries are on the rise. This week, Zambia recorded more than 200 cases in a single day.
Tisi believes education and awareness is critical in helping to stop the spread of the disease and save lives.
‘People have not been taking Covid-19 seriously,’ she says. ‘They think that it is a disease for foreigners, not for Zambians. So we took this awareness-raising upon ourselves, knowing the truth and the facts.
‘We thought of sharing so that our communities are protected and informed. Because if you are not informed you will be selfish.
‘People’s shops are open, people are still moving in town without masks. So we saw it as very important because this is not just affecting our community but even our country at large.
‘A lot of plans have been made trying to prevent too many people getting Covid-19; and it can be prevented through one or two precautions, like washing your hands with soap, making sure you have a face mask on, making sure that you don’t move unnecessarily.’
The work these women do is vital because these communities are so often overlooked and forgotten about. Tisi says CAMFED’s work is so important because it comes from people who know the area and know the people the best.
‘Many people in our communities are not literate,’ explains Tisi. ‘So you’ll find that so many things are overlooked.
‘We want to see a better world, a better community, we want to see development. So what always inspires us is our background.
‘We look at where we are from – CAMFED has helped us pay for our school fees – and now we believe we can also help others. And we help them with what we have, because we cannot give what we do not have.
‘So the skills we’ve acquired from our career, from various places, skills that we have been learning through enterprise programmes, we use those to help our communities, because that wasn’t just for our benefit, but it was for our families, for our communities too.’
Tisi hopes that she and her CAMFED sisters can play a part in creating a better world.
‘We want a world that is informed, a world that helps each other, a world that is free from sickness, that has got peace,’ she says.
‘We seek to be the catalyst for development, because we know we can’t develop without information. Information is power.
‘And this is what we seek for our countries, our communities to be. To be a better world, where development has occurred. And we know it’s a gradual process, but definitely, we will get there.’
If you are working in your community to help vulnerable people tackle coronavirus, we want to hear from you.
Get in touch: [email protected]
Source: Read Full Article