By Rachel Simmet, Communication & Social Media Coordinator
We are excited to announce the latest member of our team and new Head Midwife, Sister Kizito Josephine. Sister Josephine brings both experience and passion, as she has been a midwife since 1980. She was originally inspired by the nurses she met who conducted outreaches at her secondary school and she went on to study at Nsambyu Nursing and Midwifery School. It was during her studies that she learned about postpartum hemorrhaging and realized that is how her own mother passed away while giving birth to her younger sibling. “I didn’t know about it [how she died] until I went for my studies.” This lack of knowledge about health complications and common health-related issues is something that Sister Josephine hopes to change. She sees better education as instrumental in reducing the maternal and child mortality rate, which is estimated at an average of 16 deaths per day in Uganda. “We still have a long way to go to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate… We appreciate NGOs like Shanti because they are reducing the rate.”
Sister Josephine has experience working at the district level for 18 years as an Assistant Maternal Child Health Officer where she trained and updated other health workers on important matters such as the risk factors of gestational diabetes. In this role she learned to work with a diverse group of people and how to efficiently engage with the community regarding health issues. It was in this role that she was introduced to Shanti Uganda. Sister Josephine became a key advisor while helping to set up the Birth House and she ensured the proper paperwork was in place to get the organization started. After her retirement from government work, she saw an opportunity to go back to working with mothers in a more hands on way by passing on her skills to the next generation of midwives. When talking about why she wanted to work for Shanti, she notes the services and care we provide and says, “That is what I am.”
If you ask her about the most interesting birth she has attended she retells a story about a woman she met in a matatu, a local minibus transportation service in Uganda. As an experienced midwife it was not hard for her to tell that this women was close to giving birth, so she advised the woman’s partner to go buy a few supplies for their journey to the hospital. Her instincts were right as the baby arrived before their destination, so fast in fact, that the baby fell under the seat of the vehicle before anyone could intervene. Luckily the baby was not harmed and Sister Josephine was there to help make sure the baby was safe and taken care of, “No one else wanted to help this lady because they didn’t know her [HIV] status.” She cleaned up the baby and made sure it was alright while also making another discovery: “When I went to help bring out the placenta I found that there was another baby.” In the chaos of the first arrival the woman and her partner had failed to tell Sister Josephine about the fact they were expecting twins. In the end, the driver and Sister Josephine helped the woman get to the hospital before the birth of the second child and to this day she wonders what happened to the mother and her twins she helped all those years ago.
It’s with this story you realize Sister Josephine doesn’t seem afraid to tackle any challenge she is faced with. The challenges facing maternal care in Uganda are significant and she can’t help feeling emotional about the high mortality rate, “When we hear that it makes us sad.” Despite this she sees the hope in the work Shanti does, and is especially supportive of the Teen Girls Workshop, and the newly formed Teen Boys Workshop which teach sexual and health education to the younger generation. “If we want to change the world we need to start with teens,” she explains. Her hope is that the teen boys who have attended the workshop will grow up into men who are more involved in the health care of their wives and partners. Getting more male involvement in prenatal care is one of her goals as Head Midwife, but she is most looking forward to building a strong team so that they can continue providing a safe and caring birthing environment to all mothers. With her skills and experience we have no doubt she will achieve her goals and make the Birth House an ever better place for birthing women. Welcome to the team Sister J!