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on a positive impact

Trust Talks with: Josi Wey

Interviewed by Antonio Delgado, Program Director, Janssen CSR EMEA Fund

At the Janssen Corporate Social Responsibility Europe, Middle East, and Africa Fund (Fund), we collaborate with our sister company, the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust (Trust), to support innovative solutions that improve health and wellbeing in underserved communities. The Fund and Trust currently support SOS Children’s Villages International to improve health outcomes with a particular focus on women and children.

Beyond financial assistance, partners like SOS Children’s Villages International receive additional support through the Trust Secondment Program. The Secondment Program matches the needs of NGOs with the skills of J&J employees who provide long-term support for a sustainable impact. The Secondees on the other hand gain a life-changing and unique experience that contributes to their personal and professional development.

One of our 2016 Secondees was Josi Wey, a Regional Quality and Compliance Senior Manager at Johnson & Johnson Consumer in Germany. Josi was the first Trust Secondee assigned to SOS Children’s Villages International where she supported its Save My Mother cervical cancer awareness campaign in The Gambia during a six-month assignment. I had the chance to interview Josi to learn more about her experience. You can also watch the Save My Mother TV episodes Josi supported here.

Antonio: Your Secondment focused on developing advocacy and communications strategies for the Save My Mother cervical cancer campaign. What are some of the challenges women in The Gambia face related to cervical cancer?

Josi: Cervical cancer is a silent killer here – it is the number one cancer affecting women in The Gambia. There are many women and families who have been affected by the disease but don’t know where to turn to get more information and treatment. Screenings for cervical cancer are rare here due to cultural and religious barriers, with many husbands unwilling to have their wives attend these clinics. Doctors report that one of the main challenges is that patients come to them when the cancer is already in an advanced stage, when there is little that can be done besides provide palliative care.

Another challenge is that women go to separate clinics for HIV treatment, antenatal care, family planning and cervical cancer screening. These clinics all use different approaches to attract women and the messages can be confusing. One of the aims of Save My Mother is to consolidate these health programs, in particular, family planning and cervical cancer and in the future breast cancer, to clarify messages and increase demand for services.

Antonio: Can you tell us more about the approach of the Save My Mother campaign?

Josi: About 50% of the adult population in The Gambia can’t read or write. Therefore, it was important that we find other ways to transmit our message and educate our audience. So we focused on radio and TV which have the potential to reach illiterate audiences in a powerful way. We created radio jingles and three short educational videos. A major victory was getting a network of radio stations to commit to playing the campaign jingles for free. Other radio and TV stations hosted us during talk shows and interviewed us about the disease and its impact. After a radio show, one of the hosts shared his story with me about his wife’s experience with cervical cancer. The campaign is opening up conversations about the disease. People who were silent before can now use their experience to help others.

Antonio: What was your experience, and maybe some challenges you faced, while filming the Save My Mother TV episodes?

Josi: Working with local young amateur actors was an amazing experience! Their energy and humor was contagious. I also experienced the importance of being flexible, creative and resilient. On the first day, we couldn’t get to the location we chose because the road leading to it was blocked. Nobody could tell us for how long it would be blocked so we had to find a different location. On the second day, one of the main actors couldn’t make it so we had to improvise again and find another actor at the location. We were also working in above 40°C temperatures and 80-90% humidity. But despite the heat, setbacks and improvisations, nobody complained. We were all so engaged in the filming and hoping to do a good job for a good cause.

Antonio: How do you feel about your experience as a Johnson & Johnson Secondee?

Josi: This was an experience like no other. I feel very proud of the tangible impact I have made and of the women’s lives I have potentially helped to save. I was also mindful to ensure that the SOS Children’s Villages International team was on board with campaign activities and saw the materials we developed as “theirs” to continue to grow after I left. The experience has reinforced my skills and confidence, and shifted my perspective. I truly believe that we can do so much to help change the health care landscape in that country and I feel privileged to have been the very first one from J&J there. My Secondment has also made me think about what is important in life and how I can do things differently. I can say that I not only have colleagues in The Gambia but I also have a family there and a special connection with the country which I’ll carry with me forever. I would recommend this to everyone.