April Blog

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By: Anna Dion, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Anna Dion, 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.

I recently listened to a presentation as part of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneuriship, featuring Paul Farmer, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Joe Madiath and Cecelia Flores-Obeanda, all speaking about the often hidden and more personal aspects of sacrifice and inspiration in leadership roles. They spoke about the challenges of keeping motivated in the face of continuing adversity, the heartbreak of not always being there when your children need you and the importance of always coming back to the experiences that move you to continue your fight. While all of the speakers’ areas of work, backgrounds and approaches were different, they all shared histories of being personally affected by their cause and a dogged determination to continue.

I found these stories particularly timely as I embark on my ‘second career’ as a mum, while also figuring out how to continue building my ‘first career’ in maternal health. I am comforted in hearing other people’s experiences in working through some of the exact same challenges that I expect to come my way.

The presenters spoke about the evolving nature of their fight- that they started focused on one specific issue, but gradually discovered a whole system that needed changing in order to create the change they longed to see. This journey is one of the aspects that excites me the most about now implementing my idea back in Canada- that I am starting from a position of knowing the problem that I want to help solve, but genuinely not knowing exactly how I am going to get there. Through my fellowship, I have strengthened my own belief in the model of filling the gap between medical and social services to improve the health and well-being of marginalized populations. Many of the women that I have worked with both in Canada and through my fellowship in Argentina would turn to the medical system for solutions to broader public health issues, such as food, housing, childcare or social support programs. Despite these basic services being essential to building healthy families, this information is rarely in the hands of health professionals. It is in bridging this gap that I hope to reduce the isolation and missed opportunities particularly for adolescent and minority women in Canada. I am confident in this model, but am now figuring out how to adapt it to the context of supporting women who experience loss on their own journey towards motherhood, with some of the key tools of a critical eye, thorough analysis and bias towards action that push me forward. As I learn more about the field itself, a path through this forest slowly becomes clearer.

I guess I could say the same thing about my journey towards parenting- that I have a general idea where I am headed and where I want to end up, but know that I cannot plan my path; understanding instead that I will end up discovering it along the way, hopefully gathering a couple of key skills along the way for good measure.