I am a UK Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Educator and Founder-Director of the Institute for African Women’s Health ( inawoh.org).
For the longest time ( 10 years +) I have been driven to do something about improving women’s health. Ever since seeing a friends sisters die in childbirth after walking for days in the corridor of the local hospital in Africa. One minute she was alive and healthy and the next minute gone. Then another cousin of mine died a few years later giving birth. Later I trained to become an obstetric fistula surgeon and was struck by the terrible injuries inflicted on mothers that left them incontinent and unable to have sex or walk. They were also as good as dead unless they got repaired – and I coined the term MAD – Mothers Are Dying.
The inequity of this all deeply affected me especially once I realized how many maternal deaths and injuries were totally preventable and could strike mothers ay any time regardless of social status.
I wanted to do something, which didn’t just involve picking up the pieces. Or instituting policies and programmes that had no longevity or sustainability. I wanted to keep African Women Healthy – hence the Institute – the first interprofessional body where all key stakeholders have an equal voice and role. Especially the women themselves who are the at the centre and design of our programmes and have equal validity.
The philosophy I use to achieve this woman-centredness is called thinking INSIDE the box (thinkinbox). A construct which believes solutions to complex issues such as maternal deaths are best found by those boxed in by the problem. They should be thought of as building blocks of society – especially women/youth who are often at the bottom and make a great % of it. When their boxes are weak of course society crumbles. So to make a stronger society we must ensure the inner strength and insights of these boxes are included. We must overcome flaws that lead to a lack of support. And we must move away from top down think-tank’s of experts – whose boxes crush those at the bottom of society. And accept that the solutions are simple to find in the people who ultimately face the problem.
This philosophy has led me to spawn several patient safety initiatives to improve the experience of mothers/ women worldwide such as smart rota (smartr), art of birth, ctg gameplan, ChEWA and now, as you will hear in this presentation, the #S_HE campaign.