Empowering Women to Take Control
At 10 years old, Véronique was betrothed to a friend of the family. The memory of the event is sharp: her mother’s friend placed a beautiful bracelet around Véronique’s wrist and informed her she was going to be married to the woman’s son. She was stunned by the announcement.
Stunned even more so by the fact that she had so little control over her own life.
Véronique married the woman’s son. She did not want to disappoint her mother, or the family friend. When the man retired from the military, they moved in together. One day her husband came home after work with a pregnant woman. He declared she was going to be his second wife.
“Do men even ask?” she laughs, with a shrug.
After the declaration, she took her place as the first wife in a polygamist household. As with so many other decisions in her life, she took this one in stride. She took responsibility for the household and looked after the new wife. “What could I do? She was pregnant.”
When the radio announced that Integrate Health would be hiring, Véronique was compelled to act. For one of the first times in her life, she made a decision that was completely her own. She applied for a Community Health Worker position.
“This time, I was the one who didn’t even ask!” she says, laughing.
She went to work for the Integrate Health primary care program. She visits twenty to twenty-five children per week making sure they are taking their medicine, and she checks for signs of diarrhea, rheumatism, malaria, pneumonia, and malnutrition. Véronique has found fulfillment in this job and in being the pilot of her own life.
“I have learned so much working at Integrate Health,” Véronique remarks. “I have watched the nurses and midwives and how they take care of their patients, and now I use what I have learned to take care of my patients, but also my own children!” Véronique’s children are also grateful for her work at the clinic. They are rarely sick, and she is able to send her oldest daughter to the University of Lomé.
What Véronique loves most about her program is the excitement and interest it incites in the patients. “Women who are pregnant want to learn about their pregnancy and watch it progress. Now they want to go to prenatal appointments. Fewer children are dying, and more women are educated on how to care for their children before and after birth. It has given many people work, and many others good health.”
Véronique is also personally thankful to Integrate Health for giving her a way to make decisions for herself and her children. “All that I am today, I owe to the program. I don’t know how to thank the program, but today, because of it, I am successful, happy, and healthy.”