Working to Change Maternal Health

Written by Cara Stephenson, Intern 

SONY DSCShanti Uganda has phenomenal midwives. Any single one of them would be welcome to deliver my babies any day. However, the past few months have left me more in awe of one particular midwife than any other.

Ssanyu Namuleme has become one of my closest friends in the past eight months, but it’s not until recently that I really appreciated just how wonderful she is at her job. As a friend, Ssanyu has so many qualities that I am drawn to – she is honest,  she gives the best hugs, and she is the best listener.

As a midwife, she displays even more qualities that I have seen in action, and leave me feeling proud to call her a friend.
Ssanyu will always put the mother first. This seems an obvious quality for a midwife, but in Uganda, women can just be numbers, being churned out of crowded hospitals every day. Ssanyu talks about mothers that come to Shanti with care and diligence, and will always make sure she gives that mother the highest quality treatment she possibly can – whether it be by following up on clients, referring women and going with them to hospital (even if her shift is over), or calling our supervising doctor if there is any doubt over what course of action should be taken.

When Ssanyu is delivering a baby, she is calm and gentle with the mothers, working with them to ensure they understand how their labours are progressing, and what needs to happen. She is never impatient or raises her voice. Ssanyu will sit with mothers who have delivered and chat with them, long after she officially needs to, learning about their lives and giving them the time of day they deserve, especially with the mothers who come in alone.

When you ask Ssanyu where Shanti could improve, her responses are always centred on our women – she will suggest improvements to ensure that women are cared for in the best way possible. If I tell Ssanyu that she is wonderful and an amazing midwife, she gets uncharacteristically shy around me and very humble. She does however, appreciate the recognition, and I can tell she is proud.

IMG_8382In the last week alone, Ssanyu has had three very tough births, and somehow always seems to be working during the difficult labours. With each one of these births, Ssanyu has been patient and remained calm, even when the labours became increasingly difficult.

When I ask Ssanyu about her future as a midwife, she is not content with just being a great midwife; she wants to help create change in Uganda. Ssanyu would like to return to study – to learn and develop new skills that she can transfer to colleagues and health centres. She acknowledges that this won’t be easy, having a small child and the cost of education in Uganda make studying largely out of reach for most, but she is going to save hard, and eventually, she will get there.

I feel humbled to call Ssanyu a friend, and Shanti is very lucky to have her working for us. Uganda needs more women like Ssanyu working to change maternal health in this country.


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