Meeting The Secretary Of State: MADES’s Impact

800 mothers die during childbirth each year.

For reasons varying from cultural sensitivities to lack of education, this problem is dominant in Muslim Majority Countries. For many of these same reasons, Maternal Health is an issue that was swept under the carpet as an issue of concern. After a 3 year campaign engaging the diaspora, training young activists, lobbying NGO’s and building their capacities, MADE successfully influenced 15 charities to start projects abroad that are prioritising the health of our mothers.

Although this campaign finished before I joined MADE, I can see the reach of the Campaign in the forms of fundraisers and advertisements for Muslim charities tackling this topical issue, an occurrence that was virtually non-existent 3 years ago. I recently attended a roundtable discussion with the Department for International Development and other organisations working on engaging the diaspora, and I was sat next to none other than the Secretary of State – Justine Greening!

We were joined by two of our volunteers who joined our ‘Ultimate Campaigners’ programme, where they were given extensive training and support by MADE to run a campaign of their own. Hena Ahsan shares her own experience of getting involved with MADE:-

“I first came to learn of the issue of Maternal Health through MADE where, like many others, I felt the need to help. 800 maternal deaths occur every single day due to not having adequate health care and knowing that 80% of these deaths are preventable was all the more reason to join this campaign to inspire people to take action.

I decided to start up a mini campaign which served different purposes as well as awareness and action for Maternal Health through encouraging young people to write poetry. I wanted to revisit the Islamic tradition of poetry, using this to allow young people to think about loving and respecting mothers, parents and their communities as an act of worship. This campaign aimed to empower young girls through creative writing, team work, confidence, reflection and expression. Writing these poems was a chance for the girls to reflect on the importance of Maternal Health and stand up for the cause by raising further awareness. The girls then organised an event for the community speaking about the issue of Maternal Health and performed their poetry with a short play.”

Hannah Abdi, who initiated discussions about these sensitive issues with her family and friends back in Somaliland, and started community fundraising for a road to provide better access to the nearest hospital, had much to say about the event.

“We were all very nervous and unsure how to act, or even address, such a prestigious and well known individual such as Justine! However, as soon as she entered the room she made us all feel at ease and insisted that we simply call her Justine.

I was amazed to see how diverse and the group was, both in terms of what injustices they were fighting and the way they chose to fight those battles. I spoke about the fantastic work that MADE did with the At Our Mothers Feet campaign. Whilst campaigning with MADE I worked with the Somali women in my community, in order to show them the importance of supporting maternal health campaigns. Like the Somali women I worked with, Justine was very eager to know how she too could positively improve the lives of women. She was very impressed with the work that all the individuals were doing and she seemed very eager to continue our discussions. She has promised to meet us all again in order to work with diaspora groups and continue this much needed discussion.”

The opportunity to present our Campaign to the Secretary of State, and hear what other organisations were up to was a truly unique experience. It was also testament to how important these smaller organisations are, that may be able to address certain issues with specific communities in a way that a large NGO or a governmental organisation would never be able to. Many of these issues take time to resolve, and only through attitudinal changes through education, and campaigning to make change, can we even come close.

I left inspired. Sometimes the work MADE does is difficult to measure tangibly, and yet the extent of our Campaigns is so widely reached. This was a brilliant booster to myself. As Sam Cooke famously sang, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”

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