Women’s Campaign International (WCI) is partnering with UNICEF and USAID on their Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) social mobilization prevention and response initiatives. With UNICEF, WCI is working in 15 counties in Liberia, and in early February, mobilizers from Grand Cape Mount, Montserado, Nimba and Bong Counties participated in training mobilization workshops. Participants were primarily women – about 90 percent. Several were teachers and educators, others were health mobilizers, and others small businesswomen.
When the mobilizers talk about their roles and what it will take to stop the virus from spreading, their commitment and dedication is apparent. They identify the barriers to them succeeding in their job. Not surprisingly, these barriers are about behavior.
Two mobilizers – Grace Nagbe from Gbarnga and Janet Benson from Ganta – participated in the mobilization trainings and were interviewed separately on what motivated them to be social mobilizers and what they see as the way to stop Ebola. An abbreviated summary of the interviews follows:
Grace Nagbe was a mobilizer with WCI prior to the Ebola outbreak, and she also has been a family planning health mobilizer. She is a WCI Field Assistant and will be coordinating the social mobilization in three counties. When comparing her past experience as a mobilizer to the Ebola work, she firmly noted that “none of those experiences have been like this…”
Like so many in Liberia, Grace has lost friends and loved ones to the virus. She told the story of a good friend who was a nurse at Bong County hospital who became ill with the Ebola virus that she may have contracted from a pregnant patient. The patient, her newborn child, and Grace’s friend died. Grace was prompted to join WCI as a mobilizer because she felt so strongly about stopping the virus.
Ms. Nagbe is forthright in her opinions and her main complaint about the job is that “people are so stubborn… They don’t want to change.” She referred to the common belief among many in Liberia that Ebola is not real or that it is designed to make the “rich richer”. Grace emphatically said, “If we can get through to these stubborn people and convince them to take the right measures, we can stop Ebola in its path.”
Janet Benson is one of the WCI UNICEF Community Leads, whose job is to bring the message down to the communities and households. There is little doubt that she will succeed. WCI selected Janet Benson because of her strong commitment to how the Ebola prevention training should go and how she thought that community activists should do their job.
Ms. Benson told WCI that she wanted to “achieve things in her community.” She wants to influence leaders and community members to “shape up” and do things correctly to stop the progress of Ebola. In addition to “achieving things in her community,” she could also “teach other young people.”
She became interested in working on the Ebola mobilization, which only “arrived” in her community recently. She “learned about other peoples’ lives and how Ebola had infected them” and found out “what she could do” to help. That led her to WCI.
When asked about the future of Ebola in Liberia, she said that “a lot of what will happen is up to us [social mobilizers], the people who work in the communities.” We have to “carry the information to the people. Then they can do the right thing. They can finish this Ebola.”
“Ebola will finish because … we won’t give up. We are not quitters. Is truth,” she stated.
She went on to explain that “Now we have to work with school kids … They’re going to be harder because kids sometimes just do what they want, not what we think they should do. If we can get the parents to talk with the kids and get the kids to talk with the parents and if we can get the pastor of the local church involved – this guy has a lot of influence around the community – then we can beat Ebola.”
Ms. Benson and Ms. Nagbe are strong advocates to Stop Ebola in Liberia. They show the commitment and dedication the WCI social mobilizers bring to this initiative. And as Ms. Benton said, “we are not quitters. Is truth.”
Couldn’t have said it better.