Yes We Can Do It!

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By: Martha Fikre Adenew, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Martha Fikre Adenew, 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.

Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison said “Women’s propensity to share confidences is universal. We confirm our reality by sharing.” I am quoting this statement because I love it and it reminds me of all the inspirational women in the Birthing Project USA. While I was flying from New Orleans to San Diego for the National Birthing Project conference, I was very eager to meet, share experiences, network and create collaboration among all the amazing Birthing Project community around the world.

They all are different in appearance and in professional background. Some of them are health professionals, some from a business background, some are professors/lecturers, but all have a shared vision which is to improve maternal and child health in their community.

While they were presenting their projects, I noticed the way it was set up is different from one another. Every one of them is doing a project according to the needs of their community, which is why they had great achievement. Most of them are doing their projects with very minimal funds but they all successfully fit into the bigger picture (Birthing Project International).

For me the very catching presentation was from Malawi by Ms. Lois Silo, who is the director of Malawi Birthing Project and country representative of Raising Malawi. As the 2008 UNICEF statistics the maternal mortality rate in Malawi was 807/100,000; in addition according to Save the Children in 2010 4624 women die every year and 13 women die every day due to pregnancy and delivery complications.

The Birthing Project started working in one of the rural areas of Malawi called Mchinji one year ago. Ms. Lois Silo coordinated the traditional birth attendants as Sister Friends (community volunteers) to connect the pregnant ladies and health facilities during their pregnancy, labor and postpartum period since they were no longer allowed to deliver a baby.

The traditional birth attendants also provide the pregnant mothers with regular follow-up by visits; they were provided with bicycles and cellphones to ease their work. Ms. Lois and the traditional birth attendants (sister friends) were doing their job effectively. At the end of the year, 185 babies were born and none of the babies and the mothers have died. If it were for the statistics a number of deaths were expected. All this great work was done with minimal funds (12,000 USD).

I tell myself “we really can do it.” Being there with all those wonderful women and listening to their achievements gave me courage, hope and a belief that we can move forward. What we need is commitment, passion, patience and collaboration.