by Maria Dieter, Associate Content Manager, PSI
Sofonie Louis grew up in a part of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, known for its violence—especially against women.
So, she became a tomboy; she was always outside, passing around a soccer ball with the neighbors. But she was also passionate about stopping the violence that surrounded her.
“People think that it’s only women who can stop gender-based violence,” Sofonie points out. “But I got boys and men to help, too, by sensitizing them to the violence that surrounded them.”
Sofonie got to know a lot of people this way. That’s why she became a health worker, showing Haitian women—her neighbors—not only how to break free of violence, but also how and where to access contraceptive choice and information.
During her day job as a health worker, it’s obvious that Sofonie is a born public speaker. But she uses her speaking skills outside of work, too, and moonlights as a soccer presenter for the Haitian national TV station. She was even one of the nighttime presenters for the 2018 World Cup.
Gregarious Sofonie, who leads mobile clinics and sessions across Port-au-Prince as part of her community health work, is one of many health workers who are putting power where it belongs as part of a campaign for youth sexual and reproductive health, known in Creole as “Djanm.”
Djanm is powering the Haitian health market with new vigor. Despite widespread knowledge of condoms, injectables and oral contraceptives, there simply aren’t enough of these modern contraceptives in the private sector, where most Haitians receive healthcare.
PSI created the Djanm campaign under Project Ignite, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to spark a chain reaction in the Haitian health market. PSI’s local affiliate, OHMaSS, works with a Haitian distributor to bring more modern contraceptives to market. With more contraceptives on the market, there are more competitive prices, and more women can access them.
Health workers like Sofonie work at mobile clinics in the private sector to make access to contraception a priority. These clinics provide services for free to those who can’t pay, but it’s capped at 10 percent of distribution so that OHMaSS and its supplier, Disprophar, can ensure the long-term prosperity of the market for modern contraception.
Every day, in the middle of each crowded clinic, Sofonie begins a chant: Lavi m, se chwa pam. My life, my choice. By the time Sofonie leaves the room, every woman knows it by heart. There are numerous clinics like this under the Djanm brand across Haiti’s capital. At the clinics, women receive free contraceptive advice and services. Mentors like Sofonie keep the crowd informed and excited as they wait to be seen by the on-site midwives. Sofonie juggles babies and questions as she ensures the clinic runs smoothly.
Women frequently ask about the side effects of contraceptives.
Sofonie responds, “Everything that goes inside your body has side effects. Even jewelry. Some people are allergic to gold. That’s why we have doctors and nurses to help. Between side effects and unwanted pregnancy, which one is worse?”
It’s clear that with Djanm, Sofonie has found her passion. As she puts her hand over the heart-shaped Djanm logo on her shirt, she says, “I don’t see the mobile clinic as work. I see it as a debt to my community.”
Image credits: © PSI/Evelyn Hockstein