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Graduation Day

On the last day of the training Tammy and I noticed more people than usual milling about. The van driver from Uvira as there-we knew Flory had arranged for him to transport some of the women. But there were other people we did not know. We figured everyone knew the Muzungu were leaving and were hoping to get something from us.

We had a short session after breakfast, naming off women who have made a difference in women’s health and encouraging the women to not give up. Then it was the women’s turn. Five of the women had prepared a skit for us and we were not sure what to expect. As it turned out, the skit was hysterically funny. They portrayed a couple with the typical Congolese brute of a husband demanding everything of his pregnant wife. The midwife came to teach her and her husband how to be healthy and took the woman to the clinic since she seemed to have signs of anemia. I couldn’t believe it, they had not only understood the formal lessons; but the women also learned to serve each other without demanding payment, to stand up for each other against the unhealthy demands of uncaring husbands and to seek help when needed. They had come a long way from the group we had met just a week before.

During the short break Senator David showed up. We had met him the day we left Bukavu for Nayngezi. He was happy to see us and came bearing the certificates that had been made for the women. He gave a short speech, then we called each woman up to receive her certificate.

Tammy and I were not prepared for the outpouring of emotion these women showed. It turned out that the people milling about had been friends and family members come to celebrate the graduation. It didn’t occur to us that without any formal education this was as close to high school or even college some of these women would ever get.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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