Interview with Rose Baalaboore on COVID-19 outreach activities in Golden Line communities in Ghana

We have reached out to Rose Baalaboore (staff member of Simavi’s partner HFFG), who has been leading COVID-19 outreach activities in Golden Line communities in Ghana, to ask her a few questions on these activities and the impact of COVID-19 on the communities, especially on women. You can read the full interview below. 

Rose Baalaboore providing information on COVID-19 in the community from a mobile van

Who in the geographical area where you are working is hit the hardest by the crisis? And why? And how?

Women who do petty trading cannot move to other communities because they fear being infected with coronavirus; other communities do not allow people from other communities. Hence, they have little income. In case the infection rate goes up in this region, the disabled, sick and elderly women will be hit the hardest.
 

How is the Corona crisis more specifically affecting the women? How do you address that in your outreach activities and information provision?

Women cannot move around to do their normal businesses outside their communities. Young and pregnant women can now only get access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services at the health facilities where there are arrangements made to provide care in turns and quickly, to prevent crowding at the facilities, and to practice social distancing to prevent infection. So far, delivery and post abortion care are still ongoing at the health facilities and child welfare clinics are also going on with their care at the health facilities. Schools have closed down, so children are at home, taken care of by the women and hopefully the men. Under the Golden Line Programme, we organize Gender Discussion Sessions to promote the sharing of household tasks between women and men, as well as the decision making. 

Partners of The Golden Line Programme (HFFG, PRS&D and Solidaridad) jointly with GHS and NCCE do a sensitization programme on COVID-19:  dawn and dusk sensitization by mobile van and loud speaker. The mobile van also makes it possible to invite women to ask, listen and learn from them (at a 1,5 m distance) about their needs and how Golden Line can help to address them.
In addition, by recording jingles and messages that are provided to the Community Information Centres, as well as by providing flyers. Health workers now go to Community Information Centres for education on SRH. 

In addition, the Golden Line Team has done sensitization sessions on COVID-19 with the women saving groups (VSLA) established in the past years, emphasizing proper hand washing, and provided buckets, tissue, liquid soap, and hand sanitizers. Some VSLAs have given out their buckets for community use and picked them up on their meeting days. 

 

How will the corona crisis affect the future of the women in the Golden Line programme?

The lockdown in the biggest cities of Ghana, Accra and Kumasi also affected women’s businesses because some people buy items from there to sell in their communities. If the cases keep on increasing due to how it is being spread by infected people and there is a total lockdown, it will affect all activities and businesses. This will reduce women’s contribution to the savings and the opportunity for loans taking will also go down. There will be high prices for goods due to the lockdown, there will be no money and no access to food. Because women are seen as responsible for food in the household, there will be stress and tension between them and their partners. If women do not have money, then the issue of not supporting the family will be there and they will not be respected by men. It will also affect the sick, disabled and elderly who are cared for by women.

Under The Golden Line Programme, several women were elected to take part in the traditional decision making process at community level. However, due to the ban on social gatherings, the chiefs are not meeting and women do not have the opportunity to voice their concerns related to current experiences and needs.

 

What can we do under the Golden Line programme to minimize the effects of the crisis on livelihoods?

The Golden Line team now builds upon the good relationship and trust they built in the past four years. To collaborate with GHS and NCCE to sensitise the communities on the spread of the virus and how to prevent infection. At the same time, women of the VSLA groups are encouraged to continue meeting and saving, whilst practicing social distancing. Jointly with the Community Information Centre, they reach out to community members on SRH issues, services available and where to access them.
 

What is the general response you have received so far from community members on the outreach and sensitization activities the Golden Line team is implementing?

Chiefs, elders and community members are very happy with the sensitization and buckets provided to their communities. This is because some VSLAs have handed over their buckets for public use at the community level. They said the Golden Line programme has considered their lives to be important during this pandemic. The community members, especially women, said information given through sensitizations has reduced their fears, taught them proper hand washing and improved on their cleanliness at the community level. Community members said they are very happy to be part of the Golden Line programme, and are praying seriously for COVID-19 to be over for them to get access to the other lined up activities under Golden Line.

 

Are there any particular challenges you have encountered so far during these outreach activities? If so, how do you address and overcome them?

Where there is no water available, women are encouraged to use hand sanitizer. When they are close to water, they are advised to wash their hands with any soap very often. There is water in all the Golden Line programme communities. The challenge is that more money will be used to buy soap items and produce soap for hand washing and this will increase their cost of living.

People queue with 1.5 meters as social distance between them and that can still be dangerous because if one enters and coughs or sneezes out the viruses, and another person enters, there is the possibility of infection. 

It is a challenge for children who want to play, and some mothers send their children around to go and sell items to supplement their household income. The team included that in the sensitization on COVID-19 and encouraged parents to let their children stay at home to ensure that they are safe.

 

You can read here the accompanying news article on COVID-19 prevention and outreach activities in Golden Line communities in Ghana and Tanzania.

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