Edwige Namwanga was a midwife when she was accepted into Save the Mothers’ MPHL program. Like many of her fellow midwives, she knew mothers were dying unnecessarily, and she wanted to do something about it.
When she graduated in 2016, she was put in charge of a rural health centre in Central Uganda. It was hardly a glamourous posting; just a one room building that mostly accommodated vaccinations for children in the area and some basic pre-natal care, but no deliveries.
Namwanga said “the status quo was not acceptable”. She knew the need for quality maternal care in the area, that what happens before a delivery can determine the course of a life. So using data and information gathering techniques she learned in the MHPL program, she successfully lobbied the Ugandan government for more resources and funds to expand the facility.
She also invested in people, ensuring that midwives would have a place to stay on the grounds so that there would always be a skilled birth attendant present for deliveries. Her plan worked. The one room health centre that couldn’t handle any deliveries is now a multi-building site that handles 40 deliveries each month! It proved if facilities exist and skilled birth attendants are present, women will choose to come to these places.
It also shows how leadership can make a difference. Our graduates are already leaders in some capacity when they enter the program, but with instruction and practice, their skills can be used to go even further.
At a recent WHO conference on maternal health, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem lamented that at the current pace the world won’t achieve SDG 3.1 (reduce maternal mortality) before 2065. While “good progress” has been made, she said “good isn’t good enough”.
Panelists at the conference emphasized the need to invest in health workers, including midwives, since they are a crucial in tracking data on maternal mortality but also to drive improvements.
Kanem said, “…women can set the agenda, and this agenda can then translate into action if we listen to women.”
Women like STM graduate Edwige Namwanga, a midwife who transformed one room into a beacon of safe motherhood in her community.