22-year-old Sharifa is one of the thousands of Afghan mothers struggling to overcome the hurdles that are posed by a healthcare system weakened by decades of war, poor facilities, and social and cultural barriers that are difficult to break.
“I studied medicine in Kabul, then I decided to specialise here. I learn a lot of things working with the international staff, such as new diagnosis and care techniques, but above all I’m gaining experience”
Sitting on a bench in the garden of the Anabah Maternity Centre, Zuria, an Afghan Gynaecologist at the Centre, is a river of words.
“I’m helping many people; many women who would not have other possibilities to give birth safely. I’m helping my country. Once I’ve gained some experience here, I want to take what I’ve learned to all of Afghanistan’s provinces. All of them!”
Zuria embodies what the Centre stands for: care, education, and empowerment.
In addition to providing free, high-quality care to the mothers of the Panjshir Valley and the neighbouring provinces, the Centre also runs specialised training programmes in gynaecology, midwifery, and nursing, recognised by the Afghan Ministry of Health. Through classroom lessons and on-the-job training, EMERGENCY’s international staff trains local doctors.
Those trained and employed by the Centre are exclusively female, providing local women with opportunities and empowerment they wouldn’t otherwise have. At EMERGENCY we believe that empowerment is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution; our approach to empowerment is built upon a deep understanding of the countries we operate in. We believe strongly in collaborating with local communities on a basis of equality and respect.
“There have been many wars in Afghanistan and women have suffered a lot,” says Marja, the team leader at the Centre, “Now, Afghan women want to learn new things, they want to be educated and become professionals.”
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘EMPOWERING WOMEN’?
Real empowerment is transformative: it’s closely connected to people’s ability to make choices and act upon them. That’s why the Anabah Maternity Centre is such an important project; by providing medical training to local women and employing them, we create a space for them to gain knowledge and resources that impact their lives in powerful ways that go beyond earning an income.
“The biggest impact EMERGENCY has had in the area is that it has positively affected the lives of local women,” Marja continues, “We employ them at the Maternity Centre and this empowers them because, with us, they are able to work outside the house. This is even more important for widows who have no other means of subsistence.”
“We are sending a strong message: we care about women and we don’t want them to die while giving birth. Working to lower maternal mortality and providing women with effective training and jobs is the best way to empower them and EMERGENCY does this.”
The constantly increasing number of women coming to the Maternity Centre for antenatal care and to give birth is proof that the Centre is having a big impact. This wouldn’t have been possible without our Afghan midwives, who continuously promote the importance of women-centred medical care with the local population, and who are tireless advocates for women’s health.
Achieving such a change is an impressive result. It has been a slow process and we still have a long journey ahead but EMERGENCY Maternity Centre in Anabah is a great success. Its legacy will last throughout the years and positively affect many more women and young girls. This is thanks to our Afghan midwives, nurses and gynaecologists: they are the ones who are making a difference for women in Afghanistan. And this is also thanks to all of our supporters around the world who believe in our work and stand next to our doctors, nurses, cleaners and patients everyday by choosing to donate to our programs.