An interview with Ruta Massunguine.
Ruta Massunguine is the community coordinator for the Canada-Mozambique Maternal Health Project. She has led the development of health committees in each of our 20 partner communities, as well as the creation of community-based microprojects. These women-led small enterprises improve the social and economic determinants of health. In recent months, 7 new microprojects were created, so we thought it was a good time to interview Ruta about her work and her life.
How have the microprojects developed?
The development of each community microproject has a long history, starting from the survey of needs in the community, followed by key steps to put them into operation. The 7 recently- formed microprojects are in the communities of Como and Dindane in the district of Homoine; Chicungussa and Nhaca in the Morrumbene district; Chipongo in the district of Massinga and Chipanzane and Murrure in the district of Vilankulo.
How did the Local Committees of Health support the formaton of the microprojects?
The committees supported the formation of microprojects by organizing the workforce for the microproject, seeking out resources in the community, warehousing goods, monitoring the rational use of installation materials, and monitoring the equipment until the final installation of the microprojects. It was interesting to note, during the installation process of the microprojects and equipment, that the members monitored the goods until they were put to use, realized the importance of having the production and income registered, and the need to divide the income for their own sake, as well as for the microproject itself.
You work with 5 project workers, each living in one of the 5 districts. How did they support the formation of microprojects?
They helped the community carry out the needs assessment to identify the best type of microproject to serve the community. They worked with the community on the key steps for the creation of the microproject, identifying local conditions to adjust for in the implementation of the microproject, carrying out a survey of quotations for the acquisition of materials, ensuring their quality and appropriateness. They organized transportation of needed resources to each location and monitored on an ongoing way the establishment of the microproject.
How do health committees and microprojects help prevent Covid?
Members disseminate key messages of preventive measures for COVID 19 to the communities where they live and within the families. They search for and advise people recently returned from neighboring countries or locations in Mozambique where COVID 19 is concentrated in alarming proportions. The local Committees of Health make referrals to the community support worker and they in turn to the district level which then reach us through a database of each district.
Can you tell us what led to your interest and leadership role in this area?
This started with my training as a Maternal Child Health nurse, where I committed to work for the people and with the people. My specific story in working with the community started in the training of traditional midwives where I was a trainer, followed by the training of multipurpose health agents (APE’s) where I was a trainer and director of the work that led to the APE Training Centre in Massinga with support of Swiss funding, and I was part of the original team that developed the current Massinga Health Training Centre, supported by Canada.
With THRP Canada, which preceded the Maternal Health Project, I increased my capacity to work with the community, starting with training in Saskatoon, Canada where I learned and worked with small community support organizations such the “Good food Box” CHEP.
Returning to Mozambique I embraced the community work creating health committees such as the examples of Tevele and Basso. Here we started with the identification of health determinants, mutual learning, and creation of a small micro-project of mosquito nets to fight malaria, which was the main problem in that community.
I was transferred to DPSI, the provincial health directorate, to manage the Maternal and Child Health Program, where I worked for six years living and resolving health issues for women and children. In 2012, there was an opportunity for me to work with an organization at JHPIEGO for the defense of women’s health, where I worked with almost the entire province for the implementation of Model Maternities. I managed to guide the teams towards the formation of three Model Maternities, namely that of Vilankulo, Quissico and Massinga.
With all this experience, I felt that my dream was being realized, when in February 2015 I was invited to work with the Mozambique Canada Maternal Health Project and to return to work with the community specifically to improve maternal health.