According to research, breast cancer is the second most often occurring cancer among women. Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of breast cancer among the public and even in some cases health professionals.
Identifying this problem, the Ethiopian Medical Students Association under the Standing Committee of Sexual and Reproductive Health, have been working on a tool to provide assistance in early detection of breast cancer.
ETEGE is an application that teaches women how to carry out self-examinations. According to Bethel Samson who is a 4th-year medical student at Tikur Ambessa and Vice-director of the Ethiopian Medical Students Association, there is a lack of tools and materials to help bring awareness about breast cancer.
“We work on raising awareness on sexual and health, rights and responsibilities as well as gender issues. For the past year, we have been working on a project called Double Impact where we approach women at their workplace and we teach them about breast and cervical cancer and encourage them to get screened because early detection saves lives.
“When we started working on the project, we noticed that there were no videos, books or apps in Amharic or any other Ethiopian languages. We wanted to do something about that. We wanted to make something our mothers, aunts or even grandmothers would enjoy using,” she says.
She pointed out that making the animation of the application an Ethiopian woman who is wearing a traditional dress and speaking Amharic was the best way to convey the team’s message. “We were inspired by queens who made a difference in the face of Ethiopian Women’s history. So we named her “Etege”,” Bethel says.
The app uses an animated figure called ETEGE to demonstrate how to do a self-breast examination in a step by step manner. It also reminds users to do so every month. Etege is currently in Amharic but according to the developers, there is a plan to including more Ethiopian languages in the up and coming versions.
“We believe that women are the pillars of society. That is, when you teach one woman how to protect herself from an advanced form of breast cancer, she will inform her daughters, sisters, friends, and coworkers of the issue and let them know they can protect themselves too.”
“Ethiopian women have shared health tips for generations so we wanted to create that kind of atmosphere with [this] app. Also, we are trying to break that stigma women feel to see and touch their breasts to check for cancer or any disease for that matter. We want them to be comfortable with themselves enough to practice self-breast examinations because it can really be lifesaving,” Bethel told Zare Journal.
She further said that the team has been working on the app and the animation taking on feedback every step of the way. “Especially the animation, we wanted it to be sensitive to our culture and norms while conveying the message. We have shown it to moms, friends, and family and they gave us good feedback and encouraged us to keep going,” she said.
ETEGE is expected to be fully launched during an event on January 19, 2019.