“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Written by volunteer midwife Julia Hagedorn
It is one of my last days at the beautiful Shanti Uganda birth center. Suzan, a first time mom to be, is labouring in the sheds of the garden, surrounded by singing birds and the always shining Ugandan sun. I am so proud to see one of our passionate, skilled and committed midwives being with her and giving her some ideas about positions that can ease her labour. She is rubbing her back and is helping her to breathe through the contractions. I could feel that the words she said to Suzan were full of empowering and encouraging messages. Shanti is one of the rare maternity centers in Uganda where mother-centered and respectful care are part of the core values and the mission.
In the 6 months I spent in Uganda, I was also working in a governmental hospital and was shocked about the conditions. It is common that the staff is overworked, has to work with a devastating lack of materials and work under miserable hygienic circumstances. I have seen midwives shouting at the women and slapping them during one of the most intimate and intense experiences in their life. I have seen women left alone with their pain in the maternity ward, almost delivering on the floor. They cannot expect any protection of their privacy and a respectful care during labour. According to the world’s midwifery report of 2014 a woman in sub-Saharan Africa is 100 times more likely to die during childbirth than in an industrialized country.
This is where Shanti makes a difference. The Teen Girl Workshops and outreaches that Shanti is doing change the lives of girls and women in Uganda; giving them ideas about their rights and their options, and giving them courage to articulate their thoughts and feelings. Those projects are having a great, long lasting and sustainable impact on their lives. It is easy to tell the challenges the women in Uganda have to face when it comes to pregnancy and birth. There are a wide variety of issues regarding access to health care, transport to a facility, the Ugandan health system, awareness about pregnancy and birth related issues, nutrition, gender roles and, most important, skilled and trained birth attendants. Shanti is facing those challenges through their compassionate work, searching for solutions that work and responding to the real needs of the people in the community. The midwives working at Shanti are blessed to have monthly trainings. In my last week I facilitated a training session about obstetric emergencies and neonatal resuscitation. It was a pleasure to share knowledge with the midwives and to see how interested and keen they are to learn more. They are all working together to accomplish the goal of a healthy and happy mum and baby, and they are doing such a great job! I am so glad that a birth center like Shanti exists in a rural village in Uganda, and I am thrilled to see how it is going to develop in the upcoming years, continuing the awesome work they do.