Profiling a Key Team Member – by Jessie Forsyth

Argentina’s had a long and lively professional history rooted in various components of oral and community health, as well as a long relationship with Saskatchewan. In 1978/79, she completed her “Agente de Estomatologia” course (basic oral health technician course) in the Health Training Institute in Maputo. In 1986/87, Argentina completed her next level of oral health training in Canada – Prince Albert, SK – through the early oral health project that lead to THRP and then our current project. As a result of her Prince Albert training, Argentina became part of creating oral health programming throughout Mozambique, and she worked directly with the Mozambique MOH for a short time. Soon, though, she left to deepen her relationship with the Mozambique – Canada Oral Health Project and participate in teaching training in Ireland and Canada before returning to Beira, Mozambique. From 1991 until 2017, Argentina’s work was based in Beira where she trained new oral health, community health, and preventive health technicians, as well as mother and child health nurses. During this period, Argentina also acted as Pedagogical Director and was responsible for developing and strengthening health training currriculum.

Today, Argentina brings her deep wealth of knowledge and experience to the project’s health training and institutional strengthening activities to help combat maternal and newborn mortality and improve women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health. This includes organizing clinical continuing education in key SRMN health areas — ie. managing obstetrical complications, providing safe abortions, and emergency newborn care at provincial and districts levels to reach as many front-line health practitioners as possible. It also includes designing and implementing continuing education for health managers. And she continues to guide the project in directly supporting the training of new health workers.

Argentina believes that effective sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health interventions require the active involvement of communities and community health workers. This is because health workers learn from community members – about their health needs, within a wider contexts of health determinants – while community members can learn from health workers who are respectful and who help people understand and respond to the challenges they face. For this to happen, health workers require training and practice in good, respectful communication and relationship building. To address the considerable health barriers caused by gender inequality, Argentina’s programming integrates ways of discussing and reflecting on gender inequality in people’s day to day lives, to help imagine different ways of relating that promote, rather than impede, women’s health and well-being.

One particularly inspiring experience for Argentina was during a continuing education course for high-level health managers who were very receptive to discussions about links between gender inequality and maternal mortality, and who showed a lot of will to find ways of involving their colleagues and other healthworkers to create change. Argentina hadn’t expected such a positive response from this particular group, but in fact, they were some of the most active participants – even in role playing and dramatization. As a result of this course, those particular managers have become leaders in promoting our project.

In short, Argentina is a core member of our project and the project is thrilled to have her on our team!

Training on safe abortions – a learning session.