Sightsavers Reports

“I’m calling all women to work together and help people”

Meet Aishatu Ahmed, who wants to encourage women to join the fight against trachoma in Nigeria.

A young woman, wearing a mask, sits on a rug in front of her house by her walking stick

Female case finders are vital when it comes to tackling the spread of trachoma, the world’s number one cause of blindness by infection.

Part of their job is to travel around communities, often house to house, to find people with advanced cases of trachoma and encourage them to undergo surgery, the only known way to stop the condition worsening.

With a disease that disproportionately affects women, having other women on the frontline ensures that people are not left behind in the fight against diseases like trachoma.

Here, case finder Aishatu Ahmed, from Bauchi state in Nigeria, tells her story.

A young woman uses a rope to pull a small vessel of water up from a well.
Wearing a face mask and washing her hands more often means that Aishatu can continue her work safely during COVID-19.

“Because of my track record distributing the oral polio vaccine, I was successfully selected to be a trachoma case finder,” says Aishatu.

“After becoming disabled when I was a child, I decided to be a trachoma case finder because I didn’t want anyone else to become disabled like me. My disability doesn’t stop me from doing my job – the community cooperates with me so that I can do my work successfully.”

When Aishatu is not doing her case finding work, she practises tailoring at school. “When I come back from school I rest, and then I start my case finding work. I go house to house to check for trachoma to make sure no one is missed out.”

Not everyone can do this job. Because of traditional or religious customs in some areas, male case finders cannot enter households unless there is a man at home. This means that some women are at risk of missing out on surgery that could stop them going blind, simply because their case finder is male.

“Being a woman is very important as a case finder because it means I can enter most homes. When I enter a home I greet the family and explain why I’m there. Then I check their eyes for trachoma. If I can see someone has advanced stages of the disease, I explain to them that surgery will help them. I tell them the place and time they can go to for surgery and that they won’t have to pay for their treatment.

“I also educate people about how, after surgery, they should continue to take their medication and how they can look after their personal hygiene to help keep them safe from infection in the future.

“I am calling to all women who are thinking about becoming a case finder, I say come, join hands and work together to help people – they should not have to go blind. Let’s help them to get surgery.”

Sightsavers supports case finder training through the Accelerate and Ascend programmes. In areas like Bauchi, where traditions prevent access to homes for male case finders, 50 to 100 per cent of participants are women.

Woman smiles, wearing traditional jewellery, in hut made from branches

How the Accelerate programme is fighting trachoma

Nigeria is one of the countries where Accelerate aims make significant progress towards eliminating this potentially blinding disease.

About Accelerate
A young woman with a stick sits in the centre of the photo with two men standing and two men seated either side of her, all socially distanced and wearing masks for COVID-19

“When I help patients to get surgery, they are very happy and appreciate it – and some have even stopped by in my home town to say thank you!”

A young woman with a stick sits in the centre of the photo with two men standing and two men seated either side of her, all socially distanced and wearing masks for COVID-19

Read more about how Sightsavers helps fight diseases

Fighting disease

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