Tech-inspired breast cancer drive taken to the grassroots

The Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA) has launched a new awareness campaign against breast cancer in the country.
Kibugu (R) shows Mukarushema how the breast cancer awareness app works. (Timothy Kisambira)
Kibugu (R) shows Mukarushema how the breast cancer awareness app works. (Timothy Kisambira)

The Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA) has launched a new awareness campaign against breast cancer in the country.

The campaign focuses on availing one smartphone in every village with a BCIEA App providing breast cancer information, according to the founder of BCIEA, Philippa Kibugu.

Giving out the first smartphone for her ‘one smartphone per village’ campaign, in Gisozi, Gasabo District, yesterday, Kibugu noted that previous awareness drives on breast cancer had little impact.

The app was developed in a bid to facilitate breast cancer awareness, according to Kibugu.

“The awareness level is not going at the speed that we would want it to; that is why I decided to develop an app where people can easily access information on their phones,” she said.

“I discovered that we can use what we have to get where we want to be, that’s why after doing research I found out that with the huge phone penetration, it would be a great approach to increase awareness.”

The application is both in English and Kinyarwanda.

The app is accessible on android and iPhone, but its developers are working on making it  compatible with other ordinary phones so that the message can reach more people.

In the ‘one smartphone per village’ campaign, a BCIEA agent at the village level will receive a smartphone and help teach others on how to use it.

“We hope to partner with the Ministry of Health and community workers who are even more enlightened on health issues. Mobile health is the way to go, I am seeking every body’s support,” Kibugu added.

At least 250 agents from 250 villages in Rwanda are expected to receive smartphones for the programme between 2015 and 2016 for the start.

Aspire, a women’s organisation based in Gisozi, was the first to receive and be trained on how to use the smartphone and app.

Valence Mukashema, a social worker at Aspire, said the new initiative would help create awareness among women on breast cancer since most of them have scanty knowledge on the disease.

“This will help us a lot because many women are ignorant of breast cancer. Some cancer victims think that its witchcraft or side effects of family planning. But with this, their mindset is going to change and the fact that most of us have phones, it will be convenient for us to get whichever information that we need,” Mukashema said.

She noted that it will be easier for them to put the message across since the women members are always together.

Many people have friends and relatives who are victims; therefore, this will serve as an opportunity for them to fight the deadly disease, Mukashema added.

Constance Mukankusi Gateja, a counsellor who works with BCIEA, expressed optimism that taking the breast cancer campaign to the village level would have more impact.

“I think it is going to help women a lot because this is going to be done at the grassroots where few people have information. With this app, breast cancer awareness will be done easily and we expect a big change.”

 

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