By: Foluso Ajani; Originally titled "How I Got the Invitation for the Women Deliver Conference (Malaysia 2013)," and posted on MDGs in Africa
This is excerpt of an e-terview we had with Dr Foluso Ajani, an advocate for maternal and reproductive health rights. She is passionate about efforts to [improve] maternal health. In this short piece, she shares with us how she got the invitation for the Women Deliver Conference in Malaysia and the ‘Refer and Reward Scheme’ she will present at the International Conference.
ACMA: Can we meet you?
Foluso: I am Foluso Ishola (nee Ajani), a highly motivated young Nigerian Medical Doctor, an activist and advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, maternal and child health. I hold a Bachelors degree in Medicine and Surgery from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife South West Nigeria and interned at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. I am presently a partner at Brown Button Foundation, a NGO set up to curb high maternal and child mortality rate in Nigeria and promote women’s sexual and reproductive rights. I am currently practicing in Port Harcourt where I oversee a maternal and child health care facility.
ACMA: How did you get to know about the Women Deliver conference?
Foluso: I got to know about the conference from a colleague, Dr Biodun Awosusi, the creator of MDGs in Africa. We met briefly while we were back in school to pick up our call up letters. We were involved in different organizations and projects as medical students and Biodun has always been a like-minded colleague who I love to brainstorm with. We got talking about what each of us had been up to after graduation and I mentioned my interest and active involvement in maternal and child health. He suggested I apply for the Women Deliver Conference in Malaysia. I checked it up and did just that.
ACMA: What do you think gave you an edge?
Foluso: Prior to my application, I’d been deeply involved in maternal and child health and reproductive rights. A friend of mine, Peju Mabadeje, a lawyer and also an OAU alumnus, brought up an idea which she sold to me. She had been inspired by the death of a dear friend, another lawyer at child birth. Her idea made a lot of sense and together with a few other professionals, we pulled resources together. That’s how Brown Button Foundation came to be.
BBF has done quite a handful and made impact given our short time of existence. Our Pilot project was in Ogun State where we started with the training of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) and establishing the Refer and Reward System to encourage timely referral. We’ve also upgraded delivery facilities at some health centres. Some of these projects I’d been involved with definitely gave me an edge.
ACMA: What will be your contribution to the Women Deliver conference next year?
Foluso: At the Women Deliver Conference next year, I intend to further share and cement some of the idea we’ve come up with at home level which have proven effective. The Refer and Reward System, as mentioned, the training of TBA at the grass-root also cannot be overemphasized, delay models that increase pregnancy related mortalities, unmet need for contraceptives, bridging the gap between policy makers, budget planners and maternal and child health.
ACMA: What are your expectations at the conference?
Foluso: The conference will bring together more than 5000 expected participants from Ministry of Health, Finance and Development Co-operations, Parliaments, leading civil society organizations, global companies, media and more! Engagement with influential policy makers, budget planners from donor countries, multilateral agencies and foundations to mobilize increasing funding allocations for maternal health and also to create policies that favor girls and women! More than 120 concurrent sessions, high level plenaries, ministerial and parliamentarian forums, skill building workshops etc will make the conference deeply.
ACMA: How can we reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria and Africa?
Foluso: A woman dies every minute due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications, most of which are preventable, 50% of all maternal death globally are in Africa. Nigeria according to UNFPA makes up 2% of global population but bears 10% of global maternal mortality. Childbirth in Nigeria, to say the least, is a risky venture! We’re making progress but at a relatively slow rate and MDG 4 $ 5 cannot be achieved at this slow rate.
Maternal mortality can be reduced by educating about and increasing access to contraceptives. More than 220 million women in developing countries have unmet need for contraceptives. WHO estimates that there are almost 80 million unintended pregnancies every year leading to approximately 20 million unsafe abortions and 68,000 maternal deaths. Addressing the delay models which identifies individual decision making, access to affordable services and provision of skilled personnel will also be useful.
Better policies involving girls, women and children and more budget allocations to cater for their needs. The Rio+20 conference which aimed to develop a global framework to reduce poverty concluded recently without significant mention of reproductive health and rights in the seven priority areas. Those are some of the issues that need to be addressed!
ACMA: How has the group been of help to you?
Foluso: This group has definitely been of help. Apart from learning about the conference through its forum, the group is at the forefront of advocacy for MDGs in Africa, the effectiveness of its use of social network to propagate up to date global information cannot be overemphasized! Keep up the good work.
ACMA: Thank you for your time. We wish you success in future endeavors.
Foluso: Thank you.