Congo Field Staff Spotlight: Robert and Zozo
Written By: Kari-Lyn Danyluk, JGI Canada volunteer
Category: From The Field
When JGI announced the launch of its Delivering Healthy Futures project in April, we knew that it could only succeed with the collaboration of our Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) staff who deliver the program on the ground. Our field staff cover hundreds of kilometers travelling across unstable regions to build partnerships with villagers, and to ensure that families receive the care and education they need to make healthy choices that benefit both them and the ecosystem.
Robert and Zozo are two hard-working trained nurses who are creating a bridge between project planning and tangible, community-level results. Working in communities where there is traditionally a stigma attached to discussing birth control or family planning, Robert and Zozo and their team of volunteers are welcomed as they travel from house-to-house spreading awareness about birth control options and the benefits of birth spacing.
Field staff Zozo and Robert
The JGI approach to community conservation is based on the idea that greater access to birth control and reproductive education leads to smaller family sizes, more spacing between births, and slower population growth. In turn this will improve the health of local communities and have a positive impact on the surrounding environment – which borders a forest that’s home to wild chimpanzees.
In the DRC, women are most likely to be the main household caregiver, and are key allies in promoting environmental sustainability. With fewer children and more time between births, women have more time and resources to engage in community and conservation activities.
Using theatre and dance, Robert and Zozo tailor messages to reach out to the community, but especially to fathers, who are key collaborators in a traditional culture that requires husbands be informed if wives wish to use birth control. The message of a recent play pointed out how families thrive when there are fewer children to share resources.
Community theatre outreach
Robert says that since their work began in 2005, there has been a decrease in disease and infant and maternal mortality. Robert and Zozo report that the men in the villages they visit have become much more willing to embrace family planning.
Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
Projet réalisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise d’Affaires mondiales Canada.