Breast cancer claims the lives of more Afghan women than maternal mortality and heart disease combined, but remains largely shrouded in mystery. In 2014, breast cancer made up more than one third (an estimated 7,000) of Afghanistan’s 20,000 cancer-related deaths each year.
After studying these statistics, six Promote Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) participants were inspired to develop and host a series of breast cancer forums around Kabul.
“Many of my friends and relatives are currently suffering from this disease and we just lost one of our close relatives because of it,” says Nooria Dauran, 27. “I think this is an important issue that every girl and women should know.”
Their goal was to raise awareness of the deadly disease among the city’s more disadvantaged women—i.e. those who are illiterate or poor and unlikely to know what breast cancer is, how to do self-exams or seek treatment.
The Jawana students researched numerous reports from the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Public Health that revealed only a tiny percentage of Afghan women are even aware of the disease and even fewer know how to conduct a breast self-exam.
So they developed materials for breast cancer detection sessions held from mid-November to early December. They informed 230 women about breast cancer’s prevalence and demonstrated how to examine their own breasts. The young women also taught audience members how to teach other women about the disease, an evidence-based educational philosophy that forms the cornerstone of the Jawana program.
Fatima, a 31-year-old participant, knew “almost nothing” about breast cancer before the workshop. “But now, I will tell each and every women I meet about this dangerous disease,” she said.
Fifty-five-year-old Masooma concurs. “I am at the end point of my life, but I will tell my daughters and other young women in my family about this disease,” she said. “I want them to find out about the symptoms so they can be cured when the disease is still in the early stages.”