The Power of One: Meet Agnes

Posted by On August 6, 2015
By Crystal Cazier Agnes Musonda is actively raising awareness to fight cervical and breast cancer in her country. Because of the hard work and dedication of Agnes and her team, women in the most remote parts of Zambia who might otherwise be forgotten are more aware of the risks of cervical and breast cancer and available screening and treatment opportunities. In her role as Health Promotion Manager, a position funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the United States through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, Agnes travels with her colleagues in Zambia’s Cervical and Breast Cancer Prevention Programme to some of the country’s most hard-to-reach areas. The Zambia Health Promotion Team traveling to meet women in hard-to-reach areas in Western Province. Traveling an average of 350 miles from Lusaka, the country’s capital, for each trip, the Health Promotion team aims to educate as many people as possible in a given community on the prevention and care of breast and cervical cancer. To achieve community buy-in efficiently and respectfully, Agnes and her team work with traditional leaders, known as Indunas, who are the custodians of culture and values in their communities. Indunas command respect and authority, so they are able to influence the decision-making of their constituents, and are also best-positioned to mobilize the community for action. On a recent visit to Mwayenda Village in Zambia’s Western Province, Agnes worked with Induna Mwayenda to raise awareness in his village. Together they dispelled myths about cancer, especially the myth that cervical cancer screening is only for younger women. Following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Government of Zambia and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon recommend that all women between the ages of 30 and 49 be checked for pre-cancerous cervical lesions. After his conversation with Agnes, Induna Mwayenda responded, “What I have learned is that older women…should also be screened for cervical cancer, an encouraging sign of his increased knowledge. From April to June of this year, Agnes and her team educated and distributed informational brochures to 333 traditional leaders in five Districts.
Agnes with Induna Mwayenda of Mwayenda Village in Nkayema District, Western Province, Zambia
After receiving the blessing of local leaders, Agnes and her team strategically target health centers, markets, schools, shops, churches, and bus stops to spread the word about cancer. In some Districts, they make PA system announcements and conduct radio interviews, thereby reaching an even wider audience. Agnes also visits individuals in their homes to teach them about cancer. Mrs. M. and her daughter, residents of Tatiyelo Village in Western Province, were able to gain clarity on cervical cancer from Agnes’s recent personal visit. After Agnes educated them both on the risk and prevention of cervical cancer, Mrs. M. said to her, “I have been hearing about cervical cancer, but I have never had an opportunity to really ask what this is all about and how one can acquire it, or even get treated. I am glad that you have come to my house today so I could learn more.” Agnes interviewing Mrs M. and her daughter in Tatiyelo Village in Nkeyema Distict, Western Province, Zambia. In her role, Agnes combines her abilities in awareness-raising with clinical skills. She is therefore able to train healthcare workers in the villages she visits on preventative measures and also provide cancer screening and treatment services. For example, Agnes frequently engages women on breast self-awareness, teaching them how to conduct breast self-examinations, so that they may in turn educate their communities. And in all five Districts they visited between April and June, the Health Promotion team offered screen-and-treat services for cervical pre- cancer.  They screened a total of 5,532 women, and successfully treated 154; in addition, 65 other women were referred for more advanced treatment. Community health care workers in Zambia being taught how to conduct breast self-examinations. During the period of April to June 2015, Agnes and her team reached a total of 23,766 men and women in their communities to educate them on cancer, and distributed over 2,500 informational brochures. Agnes is committed to using every opportunity to save women’s lives, and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and the National Breast Cancer Foundation are proud to support her! Crystal Cazier is the Assistant for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.