Paulina Boniface Dotto, 53, devotes her time to promoting the value and importance of antenatal care services (also known as pre- and post-natal care) to pregnant women in the Simiyu Region of Tanzania.
Once a traditional birth attendant, Paulina trained to become a community health worker in her village, called Zagayu, through our Uzazi Uzima (Kiswahili for “Safe Deliveries”) project. Zagayu Centre is one of the health facilities supported by Uzazi Uzima.
Through the project, the number of pregnant women attending antenatal care visits has increased substantially. For example, between July and September 2020 about 221 women attended and completed antenatal visits at the health facility, compared to 13 women between July and September 2019.
It hasn’t been easy for Paulina to increase the attendance at the health facility’s antenatal care clinic; she experienced a number of obstacles along the way. One of the biggest challenges was misconceptions that community members had about antenatal care visits.
As a trained community health worker, Paulina deliberately decided to start her work by visiting each pregnant woman in her area, covering the entire 74 households she was assigned to. She played a big role in raising awareness in the community to understand the importance of pregnant women seeking out care with trained health care workers before and after giving birth. Such health care is vital to help prevent the deaths of pregnant women and newborns. She also encouraged male partners to get involved in antenatal care because they have a powerful role in the community and may prevent women from accessing health care.
Paulina proudly shares her experience and milestones. For example, each month she refers 12 to 13 pregnant women to the health facility for care. Part of her role as a community health worker is to keep records of all of the clients she has either referred or escorted to the health facility.
Paulina believes that community engagement and education are very crucial as there are still some instances where misconceptions about antenatal care have prevented women from attending the services. Paulina strongly advises conducting more outreach services and education to hard-to-reach areas as a critical strategy to ensure community members understand and see the importance of the health care for pregnant women.
The Uzazi Uzima project (Kiswahili for “Safe Deliveries”) in Simiyu Region is a four-year project, a partnership among Amref Health Africa and Marie Stopes, with Deloitte as a service partner, with support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.