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.
I was sitting in the city park in New Orleans and I was enjoying the warmness of the sun. I was really thinking of how the weather changes from that terrible coldness, it looked as if it would never change to this pleasant weather. I hoped the spring would stay throughout the year, which of course will not happen. While I was enjoying the warmness I was thinking of my next step. As my Young Champion Program is going to wrap up within a couple of months, I was looking for ways to move forward.
The day before, I had a group discussion with my colleagues about my idea and the maternal health situation in our countries. It was really an interesting discussion and I have gotten good feedback for my idea. We have been also discussing areas of collaboration for my future work. Their contributions to my idea make me feel that I am moving one step ahead or at least a little bit lifting from the ground where I initially stood. One of them suggested that I look into different research that has been recently published. I decided to look at some of the resources she provided and some of the findings were interesting and heartbreaking.
I jotted down some of the most disturbing responses of the research participants from a research entitled “Care-seeking for maternal health: Challenges remain for poor women” by Charlotte Warren.
“If my husband does not have money, he may say ‘Why should I take you to a facility?’ out of ignorance. He will take me there only when the illness becomes serious or when I am close to death. If we had a facility here, I could just go without telling him and tell him to pay after I get treated” (woman from Amhara regional state).
“We stay at our home and we give birth, by the time they tell us of complications, it is already dangerous — we just die. We do not have an option because we cannot afford to pay for a car to take us to hospital” (woman from Amhara regional state)
“If she does not have money, she might die. The only thing we can do is to go to her funeral…” (father from Amhara regional state).
I was really very sad and it really broke my heart to read this. Things really need to change. I felt so frustrated and thought “How I am able to address this situation?” But it also gave me courage since I feel I am on the right track and this is the right time. I have also realized my idea can be broadened in a way that it can bring a real change to the whole society. I know my responsibility is huge and I have to tackle a complicated issue as a social entrepreneur. As Hal Borland said “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” I am sure the entire pressing situation will pass and we can make things change.