Evangelina Rutazaa arrives at the Gungu Health Center in Mwanza, Tanzania, in a bajaji— a three-wheeled motorized vehicle with a small open cab. She steps out with a wide smile on her face and pats down her windblown hair. She is a mobile nurse who travels from the local Marie Stopes International (MSI) headquarters to more remote health care facilities, helping to dispense reproductive health care and family planning services. She has been a bajaji nurse with MSI for three years, but has 41 years of nursing experience.
Evangelina is now 65 years old and considers herself retired. Even so, every morning she makes the hour-long trek to pick up her bajaji, meet her driver and start her day. The duo braves rough roads and far distances, all out of dedication to the work they do and the communities they serve. Evangelina is skilled in both short-term and long acting contraceptive methods, and provides a much-needed extra hand to often understaffed health care centers. Her male driver is also well educated on the various contraceptive methods. As a “vocal local,” he provides support and eases the concerns of male clients.
Evangelina had six children of her own before deciding that was enough. She uses herself as an example to the women she consults. To Evangelina, family planning is key to women’s and children’s health. The most important thing a child needs, she says, is its mother. Family planning helps women delay pregnancies until they are strong enough to survive childbirth. And spaced pregnancies help to ensure that mothers can focus on their children. It is with this passion for her work that Evangelina drives into the hills in her bajaji to deliver her message to women near and far.
MSI’s bajaji nurses have proven to be especially effective at meeting the demand for family planning. Bajajis are often used as taxis and can roam the streets without drawing much attention. Women and men can easily and discreetly seek information on family planning services if they know a bajaji nurse will be in town. MSI is now deploying bajaji nurses to schools and universities as well.
Photo by Dominic Chavez/FP2020