This blog post was contributed by Ifeyinwa Egwaoje Madu, 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.
“FOCUS” has been my watch word in the month of February and that means focusing on my idea. I have spent a great deal of my time working in the field with the Birthing Project volunteers, building my capacity and working my way up, but I feel that now is a good time for me to begin exploring ways of bringing my idea to reality.
I often relate my idea with being pregnant; there are times when I have felt excited, sometimes I have felt discomfort, and other times impatience. But just like my pregnancies have taught me, I have learned that you cannot jump the gun; you must get to the bridge before crossing it. Each time I get impatient when pregnant I am consoled that surely at the end of nine months the baby will definitely be born. It will not stay inside of me forever. Right now as a Young Champion I feel like each day brings me closer to a piece of the puzzle and the whole picture will be complete in due course. I do have my fears but I know I will certainly cross this bridge, especially with the level of support that I have from other maternal health professionals in the field.
I have put together a support team for my project that will provide me with expert advice, support, resources and also help to fundraise for the project to achieve its main objectives. They will help with raising funds here in the US for our activities, while I am in the US and even after I have gone back to Nigeria. The group is made up of social entrepreneurs here in the US who are willing to support social change anywhere in the world.
The 55th session of the Commission on the Status of women held in New York, provided a platform for me to network with other maternal health professionals and also pitch my idea. My presentation, titled “How do we fix this”, is a call to action for people to understand that empowering women begins with helping the women around us regain their self-esteem and self-worth.
The Commission on the Status of Women (hereafter referred to as “CSW” or “the Commission”) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. It is the principal global policy-making body. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards, and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. It is very interesting that one issue kept recurring in most of the sessions that I attended: the issue of women and self-esteem. In all the sessions it was mentioned that building a high self-esteem in women will in many ways prevent some of the personal, social, and global problems that women go through.
While attending CSW in New York I used the opportunity to meet with members of staff of the Maternal Health Task Force office alongside Zubaida Bai. We talked at length about our projects and received very meaningful feedback about our challenges and plans for the future. Lorraine Thompson (winner of Ashoka Maternal health blogging contest) and I also met again in New York and spent Saturday shopping. We had lunch and a drink catching up on old times. She encouraged me a great deal about my plans for the future after my Young Champions Program.
CSW also afforded me the opportunity to meet with some people from Global Fund for Women. It is amazing how much expert advice you can get from people already in the field. I literally got a lecture on fundraising from these wonderful people and they also participated at my session.
I am planning for the future and working very hard. Just like pregnancy, I will bring forth. And focus is my watch word.