Celebrating Changemakers: Meet Five Women Who Are Making a Difference in Their Communities

Published on March 7, 2022

This International Women’s Day, we are sharing perspectives from five women worldwide and highlighting how they work to change the inequalities and barriers to care that can cause preventable deaths and illnesses among women and their children.

Committed to Learning Everything She Can to Improve Women’s Health

Miriam Nabatanzi Bwete, midwife (right).

“People-centered care helps me to understand a client’s method of choice, how best the method can be delivered, and the relevant support to be offered to an RH [reproductive health] client,” says Miriam Nabatanzi Bwete, a midwife at Biva Maternity and Health Clinic in Uganda. Miriam has been a midwife for 20 years, but she continues to grow and learn in her profession. She recently received training from MOMENTUM in offering person-centered postpartum family planning services using the Counseling for Choice (C4C) contraceptive counseling approach.

Using knowledge from her training, Miriam supports women to make informed decisions about their health. In addition to welcoming clients and setting the right environment for them, she also helps them open up about their sexual and reproductive health concerns by actively listening. “I provide relevant information about contraception methods and their benefits, how each method should be administered, and even follow up to ensure that the client is well and happy.”

Private health care is one of the fastest-growing segments of health care systems, and private providers are an increasingly important source of care in low- and middle-income countries. Through Population Services International (PSI) Uganda, MOMENTUM Private Healthcare Delivery supports health providers in facilities like the Biva Maternity and Health Clinic by providing training and capacity-strengthening tools.

Take a look at the Counseling for Choice tools and resources developed by PSI to learn how MOMENTUM supports midwives like Miriam to provide person-centered, high-quality reproductive health care.

Advocating for Greater Commitment to Safe Surgery

Nigerian Minister of Women and Social Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen (third right) announces the launch of the USAID Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics activity to help more women in Nigeria overcome the burden of obstetric fistula. Joining Minister Tallen were Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, First Lady of Kebbi State (second left), USAID Health Office Director Paul McDermott (right) and EngenderHealth West Africa Regional Representative Nene Cisse (left).

“All hands must be on deck,” says Dame Pauline Tallen, Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. “So many women are in so much pain. The need is tremendous.” She is the mother of five children and Nigeria’s high-level champion of safe surgery for her country’s women. Nine months ago, she helped launch the USAID/Nigeria Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics activity, a part of the global USAID MOMENTUM project. “This robust program will reach more women who are suffering and empower survivors with hope and the joy of living again.”

Women who experience obstetric fistula, a maternal complication caused by prolonged labor, often face stigma, which compounds existing poverty and lack of access to health and social services.

MOMENTUM Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics partners with health facilities, community-based organizations, and local governments to increase access to obstetric and iatrogenic fistula prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in Nigeria.

Harnessing the Impact of Women Role Models

“On International Women’s Day, I am sending a vibrant message to Congolese women to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but also, I encourage them to raise awareness about vaccination. Vaccines against COVID-19 are very effective and are available.”

-Madame Félicité Kanku, Acting President of the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO)

Madame Félicité Kanku, Acting President of the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), the Permanent Framework of Congolese Women.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where less than 1 percent of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity is partnering with organizations like the Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO), or the Permanent Framework of Congolese Women, to explore barriers and increase coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine.

CAFCO works with the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) to organize vaccination sessions and encourage members and other women to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “More than 150 women members of the association are completely vaccinated,” says Madame Félicité Kanku, Acting President of CAFCO. “With the support of MOMENTUM and the EPI, CAFCO sensitizes women in the provinces of Haut-Katanga and Kongo-Central in favor of vaccination, and we are motivated by seeing women getting their vaccines right after our sessions.”

MOMENTUM Routine Immunization Transformation and Equity identifies and helps immunization programs overcome persistent bottlenecks and barriers in the planning, delivery, demand, and uptake of services.

On our blog, read how we supported countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo with their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts last year.

Initiating Much-Needed Dialogues About Health

Betty Akech (left) overcame social norms to ensure her school-aged daughter could make an informed choice about family planning at the Abara Public Health Care Center in Magwi, South Sudan.

In South Sudan, MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience has partnered with a local church in Magwi County to train church leaders to initiate community dialogues with local women like Betty Akech about gender-based violence (GBV), family planning, and reproductive health, all of which are taboo topics according to the local social norms. By implementing a solution informed by the local organizations, MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience gave Betty the knowledge and confidence she needed to help her school-aged daughter seek sexual and reproductive health counseling and family planning services at the local health institution, the Abara Public Health Care Center.

MOMENTUM empowers groups who are vulnerable to or at high risk of GBV, especially women and youth, to promote dignity in care, eliminate gaps in the equitable access to and demand for services, and address social norms as barriers and contributors to health outcomes.

Check out our collection of resources highlighting the importance of voluntary family planning and reproductive health programs and services in fragile settings.

Advocating for a Systems Approach to Ending Gender-based Violence

Aarthi Chandrasekhar, a long-time advocate and champion for survivors of violence in India.

“The effects of GBV can be devastating, with short- and long-term consequences on survivors’ physical and mental health,” says Aarthi Chandrasekhar, a long-time advocate and champion for survivors of violence in India. “My engagement with survivors has shown me how empowering access to care and support can enable survivors to tap into their resilience, make informed decisions, and facilitate healing.”

As part of its work to support family planning and reproductive health among adolescents and youth, MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership: India-Yash is helping to strengthen the response to gender-based violence in Assam, a state with one of the highest rates of crimes against women in India.

In police stations across 11 districts in Assam, the project supports “Special Cells for Women” – teams of trained social workers who provide psychosocial and legal services to GBV survivors. Aarthi leads the functioning of these teams, working closely with the state government’s Department of Social Welfare, the police, and the Child in Need Institute (CINI). The ‘Special Cells’ help survivors make informed choices and implement medical and legal care guidelines for survivors of sexual violence on the ground.

“Setting up such support mechanisms is the responsibility of the state since violence is a crime,” says Aarthi. “Spaces like the Special Cells for Women, that are located within the state system, encourage survivors to access support as a matter of their right and mitigate the impact of violence on their lives.”

MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership works in tandem with country governments and local nongovernmental organizations to provide targeted technical and capacity development assistance and contribute to the global technical leadership and policy dialogue on improving measurable outcomes for maternal, newborn, and child health; voluntary family planning; and reproductive health care.

USAID MOMENTUM currently works in 34 countries across seven regions to improve maternal and child health and increase access to family planning and reproductive health care. Through strong partnerships, collaboration, and novel approaches, MOMENTUM is helping countries address health inequities, improve gender equality, and advance equitable access to quality, affordable health care. To find out more about our work, visit our website.

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