This International Women’s Day, meet three women whose commitment to eradicating polio and protecting children has brought us closer than we have ever been to a polio-free world.
Binta Kanduwa works with other mothers in her community in the Sumalia region of Kano state in northern Nigeria to explain why polio vaccines and routine immunization are so important. She shares the essential knowledge that she has gained about how polio and other vaccine preventable diseases can be stopped and children kept healthy. No case of wild polio has been reported in Nigeria in more than a year and a half, thanks to the commitment of women like Binta to make sure it never returns.
There is a reason why mothers in their village listen to Binta. Her son, Isa, was the last child ever to be paralysed by wild polio in Nigeria. She knows first-hand the worry of taking care of a child with polio; how he can’t play with the other children because of he is more likely to fall when he runs; how he needs so much more care than his other siblings; and how uncertain the future is. This makes her a powerful advocate to persuade other mothers why polio vaccines are so important.
Around the world, women like Binta are working at the heart of the polio eradication efforts, often building relationships that can help to bring vaccines to previously missed children where other methods have failed. Without these women, we wouldn’t be within reach of a polio-free world. This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to say thank you for their tireless efforts.
Nazneen helps to protect vulnerable children by ensuring that their parents know the importance of polio vaccines. © Emergency Operations Centre, Pakistan.
Nazneen is a female community mobilizer working in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. She helps to ensure that the thousands of children who are vulnerable because of movement in and out of polio-affected areas, poor sanitation and hygiene and lack of health facilities are protected against polio. One of 42 female community mobilizers in Lahore, Nazneen goes door to door to inform the parents about risks to their children if they are not vaccinated.
“We emphasise on the parents to ensure timely vaccination as this is the only way their child can be fully protected against all preventable diseases”, Nazneen says. “It is my passion to work for the children. It is their smile that makes my day and helps me keep going all day, irrespective of extremely hot weather, rain or cold.”
In Pakistan, women are crucial to the eradication effort, bringing vaccines to the doorsteps of even the most remote communities and explaining to parents why they are so important. These women have played a central role in ensuring that less than 1% of parents refuse the vaccine.
Ruth is a polio survivor in Kenya whose efforts to educate parents about the importance of vaccines has contributed to the end of the polio outbreak. © WHO/L. Dore
Ruth is a Member of County Assembly representing disabled people for Tharaka Nithi in Kenya. She contracted polio when she was 8 years old. Despite the leg braces she has to wear to stand, she attends community mobilization events to talk to parents about polio, and even gets up to dance when a group of women began to sing about the dangers of polio. “It is not a death sentence to be paralysed, but my parents and the government have had to support me to do everything. When parents are engaged with health clinics, when they trust them, then diseases like polio go away fast. I advocate with parents to explain to them that disabilities such as mine can be avoided.”
We could not have come so far towards eradicating polio without Binta, Nazneen and Ruth, and the thousands of other women who work all over the world to finish the job. So this International Women’s Day, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative wants to say thank you to them, and all the other vaccinators, community mobilizers, parents, polio survivors, surveillance officers, strategists, politicians and donors, who go above and beyond for children around the world.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative © Copyright 2010