With the one year NZCFS component of the Rural Women’s Health project, funded by Auckland Branch and KOHA fund now ended, NZCFS Projects team Deborah Rhode and Dave Bromwich spent three days in Baoji district, and visited two project villages in each of Qishan and Fengxian counties. For background and project design outline, visit the Shaanxi Rural Women’s Health Project page.
In each village they met with members of the ‘backbone team’, women representing the core group of 200 women trained, and women from other households who benefited from the training.
Deborah and an interpreter held semi-formal discussions with four groups from the backbone teams, ranging in size from 5 to 9 people, including the local doctor, members of Women’s Federation, the village leader. Generally these groups were all female with the exception of one doctor and a male village leader. The teams were confident that the programme had made a significant difference to the health of many women individually, particularly the importance of early intervention and regular checks, and the correlation of personal and home cleanliness and illness. This was confirmed by the doctor’s reporting of an increased awareness and personal responsibility for their health by their patients. The teams were encouraged by the positive response to the programme and were very appreciative of the opportunity for their village to participate in the project – they all hoped it would continue. They were aware not all women were involved, but felt that an estimated 80% participation across the population was very good for the first year, and that as it was gaining momentum another year’s work would make for a 100% success rate. Women’s federation will continue the programme promotion in the villages for another year.
Dave met with representatives of the groups of 200 women who had received training in each village. Here, he found that the project inputs had made a definite impact, with greater awareness of reproductive and gynaecological problems that can be addressed by check-ups identified as a key benefit of the project. Generally there was a greater understanding of the value of early intervention and prevention of illness, and women were changing their approaches in line with this new understanding.
Of the three different ongoing training methods, women identified the health brochure that had been delivered to each household and the monthly TV programmes had been the most used, and while the posters displayed in prominent positions in each village were of lesser value to specific health learning, they had contributed to overall awareness and understanding of the programme to all, including men.
Deborah and Dave both made visits to several households in each village. Here the impact was varied, and confirmed the need for more time for the new approaches to be fully adopted. Some older women are illiterate, and rely on younger family members to work with them to understand content in the brochures.
Overall the project has had a very good impact, with women discussing health issues openly in their daily lives. With follow up from Women’s Federation, it would continue to reach more and more women. Deborah and Dave made two suggestions as a result of their findings. Firstly, that the television programmes be shown again in a workshop situation during winter when they are less busy. In one village rubbish was a problem, and the women did not appear aware of this as a concern. However, they were assured that this was being discussed with the local leaders, WF and the county Environmental Protection Bureau.
The villages in Fengxian are in a mountainous region, and often access to clinics was not easy. A suggestion from the backbone team here was that the village doctor could make outcalls.