My greatest passion is fighting for the rights and wellbeing of women and children world-wide. My work is predicated on two beliefs, namely that: (1) Pregnancy, childbirth, and family life should be protected times of growth and development, regardless of where a person is born or the environment in which he or she lives, and that (2) People living in poverty are the single greatest resource to improving it, and should be seen as vital partners in the development process, not as paupers needing to be saved. As the Founder, President, and CEO of Safe Mothers, Safe Babies, I have been honored to fight for these two moral imperatives in partnership with rural Ugandan communities for the past 5 years.
I began pursuing this interest academically while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Vassar College. I graduated with Departmental Honors in 2009 after writing a 100-page senior thesis exploring the relationship between failing reproductive health programs and the non-participatory process of their design. This influenced my decision to evolve the initiative I founded in college, the “Vassar Uganda Project,” into the nonprofit organization Safe Mothers, Safe Babies, and shaped its methodology of integrated, participatory development in which we work with people, rather than for them, to define health, identify problems, develop innovative and community-sustainable solutions, and evaluate our impact collaboratively.
As a result of my work, I have been honored by the following opportunities: named a 2012American Express/Ashoka Changemakers Emerging Innovator; principle or co-author and implementing agent for over $95,000 of grant funds in 2011 to improve rural maternal and child health in Uganda; awarded a 2011 Do Something Seed Grant and a 2009 Compton Mentor Fellowship; featured in “Investing in Women and Girls” 2012, the 2009 Global Philanthropy Index, and Rotary World Magazine 2008 in 6 languages, along with several other digital media publications (including Women Deliver, the White Ribbon Alliance, and Ashoka Changemakers); and invited to speak at the UN and FDR Library at special events in 2008 and 2009, amongst many community events for Rotary International, the National Honor Society, and other local organizations.
I am currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in Global Health with a concentration in Reproductive Health and Populations Studies as a merit scholar at Emory University.
Finally, I have the privilege of being a wife to Richard and a mother to Jacob, which I feel makes me all-the-more passionate about, and dedicated to, helping women, children, and families world-wide.
Safe Mothers, Safe Babies seeks to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity through demand-driven, collaborative, sustainable, and scalable means.
Indigenous understandings of maternal and child health (MCH) contrast sharply with international definitions. Because international definitions of MCH shape programming decisions and priorities, the disparate nature of these definitions is related to the failure of many MCH projects to address what local citizens view as key aspects of local maternal and child health.
Complications of pregnancy and childbirth and other emergencies need medical attention; most maternal deaths could be prevented if laboring women had timely access to appropriate care. Yet, the majority of women at risk for such complications live in rural areas of the developing world where they live a great distance from a health center, and an even farther distance from a hospital with surgical capabilities. With poor roads, frequent washouts, few and expensive transportation mechanisms, and little other infrastructure, accessing care when needed can be very difficult if not impossible.
Many interventions seeking to improve maternal and neonatal mortality assume the existence of reliable energy infrastructure, and separately public will for such interventions, that simply don't exist. If a provider can't see to perform simply medical tasks because of unrealiable electricity, increasing the availability of skilled care providers or medical supplies can accomplish only so much. Likewise, if women (or other primary health decision makers) refuse to attend the health center to utilize such interventions, would good are they?
Every year, more than 350,000 women die in childbirth while millions more are injured. Despite many attempts to improve these conditions, progress has been minimal. In Uganda, rural villagers attribute this lack of progress to development agents refusing to work with them in designing and implementing development projects.