Max Foundation’s initiative to engage local Health Promoting Agents in its Stunting Free Village and NutriWash projects started just a few years back. Some two decades earlier ‘Cyclist Nani’ already grabbed the opportunity to promote healthcare as a local entrepreneur by supplying medicines to the villagers in her neigbourhood.
Johiron Beoa, now in her seventies, has established a name for herself as a medicine supplier. Roaming around on her bicycle in her home district Lamonirhat in the northern part of Bangladesh for more then twenty years, everybody calls her ‘Nani’ (grandmother). Johiron became a local health entrepreneur in 1995 after her government job as a trained midwife came to an end. Setting up her own business as a medicine supplier she could earn an income with the knowledge and experience she had acquired over the years, and provided a service to her community that was still underdeveloped in the rural areas.
Selling medicines for cold, headache, coughs and gastric problems turned out to be a good initiative, given the local demand for easy available drugs and advice. On request of her customers, Johiron he even added veterinary drugs and other medicine and healthcare products to her supply. She has a loyal circle of customers, till today. And she wants to keep it that way, despite her age. Johiron is very happy with her business and enjoys the work, the earnings and the respect of the community.
Like Johiron, Max Foundation sees an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to promote healthcare in the rural areas. Striving to eradicate stunting and to engage the local community to create a healthy environment, Max Foundations stresses the need for local entrepreneurs to provide essential services in sexual reproductive health and water, sanitation and hygiene. Training women to become Health Promoting Agents (HPA), establishes a missing link in the available healthcare facilities.
While the local entrepreneurs that collaborate with Max Foundation also travel from village to village with their supplies, like Johiron, their bags are filled with medical and sanitation products for mothers and children, focusing on sexual reproductive health. They sell vitamin A and iron pills, but also sanitary napkins, pregnancy tests and contraception pills, as well as nutrition supplements. At the same time they also monitor the weight and height of the children under five, and provide advice to mothers, and refer them to medical facilities. By offering these products and services they promote and strengthen the local healthcare structure, in a sustainable way. Just like Johiron.
See: Johiron’s story