Ros Davies is a Mum and the CEO of maternal and newborn health charity, Women & Children First. Maternal Matters is delighted that she’s christening the new Maternal Month page – thank you Ros!
Can you tell us a bit about the work of Women & Children First?
Women and Children First was established in 2001 to address the unacceptably high numbers of mother and babies dying in some of the poorest communities in the world. We work primarily through established local organisations to set up community women’s groups in poor rural areas in Africa and Asia.
“Through meeting regularly in their groups, women are empowered to find their own solutions to maternal, newborn and child health problems.”
With our local partners we also try to improve local health services – for example providing refresher training for midwives – and advocate for better healthcare provision on a local level. This combined approach has achieved up to a forty-nine per cent reduction in maternal mortality and has reduced newborn mortality rates by about a third.
How does your ideal working day start?
My ideal working day starts with news that someone wants to support our work! Funding for our projects comes mainly from big funders such as Comic Relief, the Lottery or the UK Government, but it is donations from individuals, trusts and companies which enable us to do all the ground work required to get new projects going. So, if my day starts with our fundraiser telling me that someone has made a donation online or a trust has sent us a cheque I am really happy as all those donations represent the potential for us to set up more women’s groups. We are currently planning a new project in the south of Ethiopia, so donations are helping us get that underway.
How does being a mother yourself affect the way you do your job?
About two weeks before I was due to give birth I developed pre-eclampsia. With good care and the right medical interventions – free on the NHS – I was fine and my son was delivered safely. If we had been in a remote village in Asia or Africa and not benefited from skilled medical care in good time, the outcome could have been very different.
“I know that if I had not had the right medical care during pregnancy and childbirth it is quite possible that neither my son nor I would have survived childbirth.”
This knowledge motivates me to strive for a world where all women and their babies have access to quality care no matter where they are and no matter what their financial status is.
What do you see are some of the greatest challenges in maternal health today?
Although there has been progress in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in recent years, there are still too many preventable deaths. There are various reasons for this – for example at the highest levels lack of political results in lack of funding for quality healthcare and education both of which are vital for resolving poor maternal health. I also think the greatest challenges are the lack of infrastructure – arguably the best thing that could happen for pregnant rural women would be for roads to reach all the remote villages so they could get to a health facility easily and quickly – and overall poverty which often means women are malnourished throughout their lives which of course makes it less likely for them to have a healthy pregnancy.
We are fast approaching 2015 and the MDG deadline. What do you see as being the one thing that will make the biggest impact for mothers and their babies?
I see having national health services which meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, women and children as being the thing that will make the biggest impact for mothers and their babies.
“Our work with women’s groups has shown that empowering women at community level can result in positive changes in behaviour around hygiene practices, care of the newborn or exclusive breast feeding.”
These changes have led to reductions in mortality in communities with very high death rates but acute problems such as obstructed labour, haemorrhage or eclampsia need skilled medical care in a facility with the right drugs and equipment.
What is your top tip for combining work and motherhood?
There is no doubt that combining work and motherhood is a challenge – especially when you are working in this field and the work benefits so many other women. My son is grown up now.
“When my son was small I found the best way of managing my day was to focus on work as soon as I got into the office, but ensure I left on time and dedicate my attention to him as soon as I got home.”
What has been your proudest moment since working for Women & Children First?
I think my proudest moment was when we heard the results of a field trial carried out by Ekjut, our partners in North East India, which showed that the work with women’s groups in the states of Jharkhand and Orissa had reduced newborn mortality by forty-five per cent. This was indeed a result to be proud of!
Support the work of Women & Children First here
Featured photo credit: Hien Macline/UN