All Crammed In

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By: Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Onikepe Oluwadamilola Owolabi, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

In 28 days, February has managed to expend more of my energy than all its longer colleagues. On a very exciting day in the first week of this month, I sat with my colleague to validate the first set of questionnaires administered by our fieldworkers for our sustainability plan survey.

And as the month ends, I can scream- Yes! We have finally concluded the exploratory survey and started to analyze the data. Ideas keep pouring in, and indeed, some of the best propositions I’ve heard have come from taking time to talk to members of the community themselves. I am convinced that it is not possible to push for social change if we do not have the full participation of the communities we target. As the data comes in, I’m refining my ideas, and one thought that is clear to me is that we might have a model framework on which we build very differently for each of the resource centers.

On the flipside, some unexpected personal issues cropped up this month and being a foreigner has given me quite a few sleepless nights on account of needing to urgently travel on my visa type. After numerous inquiries and a few visits to the visa office, I am grateful to have sorted some out. My mentor and indeed the whole of SNEHA have been amazing support throughout this process. Psychologically, and physically they’ve been there to talk to and have helped me think of a myriad of solutions including those that might involve me having to leave India fairly early (without any reluctance on their part). Also the masters of social work student interns who have been my very good friends for the past 6 months have completed their internship and will not be in the office anymore. I’m starting to say my goodbyes already- sooner than I planned.

Standing at the railway station on the last day of the month, and waiting for my train to come, right across the tracks was a slum similar to some of the ones we work in. The stench of refuse and human waste was overwhelming, and yet everyone around me seemed accustomed to it. The tracks were lined with children and adults who obviously had no access to toilets but needed to answer nature’s call, and less than 25 meters from these same tracks people were in their homes, living their life. It hurt my eyes to see the conditions many of the women we work with live in first hand. The reality of the myriad of things they have to deal with makes me ask myself how we can do more, and my problems seem to vanish when I’m faced with what the realities they are living through.

The interplay of all these factors on health are evident to me here in my work, and standing back and looking at what I’ve worked on over the past few months, I am discovering very interesting themes – things I will possibly write about, explore in the time I have left here, and work on in the next few years of my career. Indeed there is so much to be done – so many things to have impact on, so much change to look forward to in the next few months.