This blog post was contributed by Zubaida Bai, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. This is her final post about her experience as a Young Champion, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.
I’ve often felt that God has given me wheels for legs because my family’s life has been a constant ride. We have been up and down hills and crossed lots of bridges (most of which have been wobbly), but the Almighty always ensures we come out unscathed. When I started on this trip nine months ago with my extended Ashoka and MHTF family, I had a lot of fear and apprehension and wondered if this was the right decision for me, AYZH, and my family. Some of these were just fears due to uncertainty, other fears were justified. For example, I was scared of having to move to the east coast of the U.S. with my newborn while my husband and four-year-old son remained in the midwest.
Today, I look back at the best nine months I could have spent in my personal and professional career. This time could not have been better spent in terms of driving forward with my mission of becoming a social entrepreneur and being supported by wonderful people at Health Leads, Ashoka, Maternal Health Task Force, and the 14 other Young Champions in this journey who are spread around the world. The nine months were filled with regularly scheduled travels and innumerable cups of coffees with people in the field of women’s health. Reflecting on what made these nine months fruitful, I realized there is not one answer. Each meeting gave me something new to add to my brain. Some meetings pushed me to think harder, better, broader; others helped me feel refreshed and stronger, and some made me think about more innovative thoughts and ideas.
Most of what I said above was one aspect of my experience, but I also at times felt apprehensive. After meeting my extended Young Champions family in Ghana earlier this month, they helped me realize I was not alone in feeling this apprehension. Though there was immeasurable passion and desire, there was also uncertainty on every person’s face when we arrived in Ghana. But in no time the group of Young Champions and mentors formed teams and contributed so much to each other and helped ease each other’s fears and tensions. I felt happy and lucky to be in the company of my extended family that shared my fears and my anxieties that before now were only mine and mine alone. Strangely enough it made me feel good, strong, and fearless.
The bottom line was nothing had changed but my mindset. The most amazing part of this whole meeting was the ease with which everything happening around us made everyone feel so fearless. This was mostly a result of the fact that everyone was working towards a similar goal of improving maternal health. I discovered that listening to people talk about the same subject I am passionate about and having people pay close attention to my words when I speak does wonders to my confidence. It made me fearless and I think it made all of us fearless to see there were others who understand and share our passion.
Today, at the end of this arduous journey, I feel more confident about my ability to make a strong significant mark in the field of maternal health through my entrepreneurial initiative AYZH and I hope to stay connected with all of the Young Champions as they embark on their own journeys. Thank you to my extended family: the Young Champions, the staff at Ashoka and Maternal Health Task Force, and the folks at Health Leads for taking care of me and making these nine months the perfect incubation period for me — not coincidentally the same incubation period a mother provides for her fetus.