When Marcela Torzar heard of a new training program for midwives, the 1,000-Philippine peso price tag almost made her want to forget about it. But, encouraged by her husband and motivated to fulfill a dream, Marcela signed up for the course, developed by the USAID Private Sector Mobilization for Family Health project
in the Philippines — and found that she was glad she had spent the money. “A thousand pesos is a heavy price,” Marcela said, “but the training was worth more than that.”
Marcela was part of the inaugural group of the Business Enhancement Support Training for Midwives program. The five-day course includedcomprehensive instruction in family planning techniques, as well as basic business skills. Trainees studied contraceptive counseling and technology, fertility awareness, and infection prevention; wrote business plans for their practices, and learned how to track expenses and revenue. The project hoped to reach 10,000 health care providers.
For Marcela, who has provided basic midwifery services since 1992, the technical modules helped her add family planning services and products to her practice. For her husband, the business module convinced him that the training was worth the 1,000 pesos (about $20) that it cost.
The couple, who live in a rural community on the island of Mindanao, built
a clinic in their backyard that houses their new family business — Marcela offers client services, while her husband serves as business manager. The clinic replaces a small, windowless shed where women in Marcela’s village sometimes came to give birth and features a delivery table, a recovery room, and a counseling area where Marcela puts her new skills to use and teaches her clients how to use modern and natural contraceptive methods.
A lot is new for Marcela since she took the midwives course in September 2005. Her roster of clients has grown — as has her income, which she and her husband now are able to track. Her burgeoning business is helped by the fact she is part of the B’laan indigenous ethnic minority in Mindanao. Many members of her ethnic group feel more comfortable seeking health services from members of their own ethnic group, and Marcela’s expanding expertise means that some in her community have access to family planning services for the first time.
Marcela planned monthly mothers’ classes at her clinic to teach women about basic health topics. In addition to improving the health of her clients, the classes were designed to raise awareness of Marcela’s business within the community.
And despite the cost she took the project's advanced midwives course, where she learned advanced techniques such as intrauterine device insertion. “Thanks to (the training), I can serve my community better and earn from it too,” Marcela said.