Douglas: Going the Extra Mile to Save Lives
As a driver for EngenderHealth, Douglas Lukaya's job is to get people places. Indeed, if the faded EngenderHealth logo on his white 4x4 SUV is any indication, Douglas, like other EngenderHealth drivers, has traversed vast distances across the Tanzanian countryside, navigating the rugged, pockmarked dirt roads that connect hundreds of dispersed communities.
But, some might say it is after reaching his destination that his most important work begins.
At a soaring height of nearly 7 feet, Douglas, 45, is a towering figure with a gentle demeanor. In a single trip, he traverses up to 450 kilometers, transporting EngenderHealth experts to some of the most remote sites in Tanzania (more than double the size of the state of California). But when he arrives at his destination, he hardly recovers from the journey before sitting down in clinic waiting areas-to offer information to women and couples about family planning, as a trained community health worker.
In every country where we work, EngenderHealth trains our drivers not just to heed driving etiquette and protocols, but to serve as information agents for reproductive health. Traveling frequently to many remote areas, a driver like Douglas comes into contact with many communities, providing opportunities to share health information and, ultimately, to help change more lives.
"I couldn't help eavesdropping while he was educating the women and I was pleased with how knowledgeable and accurate he is," said Feddy Mwanga, Technical Director for EngenderHealth's ACQUIRE Tanzania Project (ATP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. "He plays a very important role in sharing information and increasing awareness about the importance and availability of family planning and other reproductive health services."
ATP trained Douglas to explain the benefits of family planning for preserving women's health and the well-being of their children. This skill also helps drivers to share family planning knowledge with other men, who escort their partners to antenatal and family planning clinics.
For Douglas, a big challenge is reaching out to men, who are often less receptive to his messages than women.
"I tell men that family planning services are not just for women," he said. "It is very much a man's responsibility to support his wife's reproductive health, because it affects the well-being of his entire family."
Engaging men to support their partners' sexual and reproductive health, including escorting them to health clinics, is a persistent challenge throughout Tanzania.
Historically, international family planning programming has focused its messages toward women, even though in many Tanzanian households, the man still makes the decisions when it comes sexual and reproductive health. EngenderHealth works to engage more men to support their wives' reproductive health through initiatives such as the Men As Partners program, which has reached more than 15 countries, and the CHAMPION Project in Tanzania.
With a wife, 35, and two children of his own, ages 12 and 6, Douglas says his life dream is to be able to provide a good education and quality life for his children before he retires. Until then, Douglas is focused on covering many more miles for EngenderHealth, taking with him important reproductive health messages to women, men, and girls wherever he goes.
Douglas Lukaya, an EngenderHealth driver, outreach worker