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Environmental and Occupational Health

In Translation: Constructing Toilets and Planting Trees

The "In Translation" sidebars in the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves highlight the work of our global partners who develop health resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves for their own communities.
 Tanzania workshop

Group: Tanzania Home Economics Association

Country: Tanzania

Resource: Kiswahili materials adapted from Our Bodies, Ourselves for East Africa

A nurse-midwife in Tanzania facilitating a
community health workshop
Tanzania, located in East Africa, has a population that is almost 80 percent rural and quite poor. While the population’s exposure to manufactured chemicals and toxins differs from that of populations in industrialized nations, the majority of Tanzanians face other environmental challenges, such as little or no access to clean water and food, crowded living spaces, and inadequate waste disposal and sanitation. This increases their risk for diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid, cholera, and malaria. Many of these are serious public health issues in their own right. However, some chemicals commonly used to contain the spread of disease can also affect the health and well-being of entire communities. DDT, for example, a chemical used to control malaria in parts of Asia and Africa, is linked to a range of reproductive disorders, including decreased fertility.

Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA), Our Bodies Ourselves’ partner in Tanzania, has adopted a comprehensive approach to the problem, one that looks at the relationship between both individual and collective health and the environment. As TAHEA uses its Kiswahili materials based on Our Bodies, Ourselves to increase awareness about reproductive and sexual health, the group also educates the community on practices that foster the growth of germs and transmit disease, and works in partnership with local health, water, sewage, medical, and academic departments to identify sustainable solutions.

This collaborative effort has already helped train more than 450 women in different villages on the importance of sanitation. Thirty of these women are now peer educators, reaching out to even more communities with information on general hygiene, human waste containment, water sources protection, and environmental effects on reproductive health, as well as overall community health and economic development. The response to their outreach is unprecedented, TAHEA reports. Most communities are constructing toilets, reducing water contamination, and planting trees in and around local water bodies— and so far there has been no cholera outbreak in these villages since.

Excerpted from the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. © 2011, Boston Women's Health Book Collective. You can read other "In Translation" sidebars about women's groups who are adapting Our Bodies, Ourselves and creating resources to advance the health and human rights of women and girls in their countries.  Click here to read more about TAHEA.


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