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Meeting with Maternal Health Champions

2011 May 10
by Martha Murdock

Martha Murdock is Vice President, Regional Programs at Family Care International.

About a year ago, the global change organization Ashoka partnered with the Maternal Health Task Force to launch a program called the Ashoka Young Champions for Maternal Health. Fourteen young social entrepreneurs, from 12 countries around the world, were selected through a rigorous online competition to be the first of “a new generation of global leaders dedicated to improving maternal health.” The Young Champions have spent the past nine months as interns gaining hands-on knowledge about maternal health and change-making, mentored by Ashoka Fellows in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Last week, I had the good fortune to spend some time with the Young Champions, at their end-of-program conference (the “Young Champions Future Forum”) in Accra, Ghana. I heard about the incredible range of innovative social ventures that they had the opportunity to develop  — from a program that reintegrates obstetric fistula survivors using community-based credit schemes, to a project that develops links between traditional birth attendants and skilled obstetric care providers in rural areas where use of institutional delivery care is low. Over three days of fellowship and robust debate, these young innovators discussed how to ensure community ownership of social change initiatives in isolated rural areas, the most effective strategies for conducting advocacy and outreach using social media, and the challenges faced by new professionals as they enter the maternal health field. As someone who’s been doing this work for more than two decades, I found the experience — the energy and commitment of my young colleagues, and the originality and quality of their thinking — to be frankly inspiring. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of these Young Champions, whose work I expect will make real impact in our field.

After the Ghana conference, I moved onto Ouagadougou, where I spent four days meeting with the team at FCI-Burkina Faso. They are doing exciting work, and I’ll report on developments there in a follow-up post.

  • Read blogs by the Ashoka Young Champions for Maternal Health
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