Ashoka Fellows apply to host and mentor Young Champions of Maternal Health

Kathryn Hall-Trujillow works with a young mother

Some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs helping to transform the field of maternal health are Ashoka Fellows who are applying for the chance to host, work with, and mentor one of 15 Young Champions during the nine-month collaborative Young Champions of Maternal Health Program. Young Champions are youthful Changemakers from around the world who are entering their ideas and maternal health solutions in the Healthy Mothers, Strong World competition on Changemakers.com.

Proposals to host and mentor a Young Champion are coming in from fellows on every continent, and include a wide range of opportunities. Read on to find out what Ashoka Fellows are proposing...

Ashoka Fellow Alberto Vázquez’s organization, SAHDES, is shifting the focus of community health care in Argentina from urban hospitals to local primary care centers, building upon each community’s specific health concerns and training local people to serve as health promoters. If Alberto is selected to participate in the program, his Young Champion will expand SAHDES’ capacity to improve maternal health in Buenos Aires by designing and implementing public community spaces for pregnant women. The purpose of these spaces is to disseminate information about proper pregnancy procedures and ensure complete knowledge and adequate supervision of pregnant women in order to detect potential health complications early. The Young Champion will play an integral role in shaping these community spaces, and will engage directly with community members and health professionals.

Ashoka Fellows Rani and Abhay Bang founded the Society for Education, Action, and Research in Community Health (SEARCH), an organization that collects regular census data, vital statistics, and mother and newborn health data in order to plan maternal health programs that effectively serve the needs of rural communities in Gadchiroli, India. If Rani and Abhay Bang are selected to take part in the program, their Young Champion will help to identify and develop an appropriate Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) system to vastly improve the data transfer process between community health workers in SEARCH intervention villages and analysts in the organization’s headquarters. Once designed, the Young Champion will test the efficacy and feasibility of providing these PDAs to community health workers by piloting them in 5 of the intervention villages.

Ashoka Fellow Jacqueline Goita’s organization, APAF Muso Danbé, provides basic education and health services in Mali to female domestic workers that leave their rural homes each year to work for families in the cities. The organization works in conjunction with a medical NGO, Santé-Sud, to set up a corps of doctors throughout the country. If Jacqueline is selected to participate in the program, her Young Champion will coordinate programs and activities for domestic workers that address HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancy prevention, and maternal and reproductive health. The Young Champion will also help to mobilize domestic workers to defend their right to improved healthcare and safe living conditions.

Ashoka Fellow Andrés Martínez Fernández is improving the performance of rural healthcare systems in developing countries through creative, inexpensive telecommunication technologies and new forms of engagement with medical professionals. His organization, the EHAS Foundation, has installed a wireless telephone and internet communication network that connects rural health centers in the Loreto region of Peru with the hospital in Iquitos, the region’s capital. If Andrés is selected to be part of the program, his Young Champion will design a plan to centralize information, improve epidemiological surveillance, and increase the capacity of remote health technicians by providing them with maternal health technologies that allow doctors in Iquitos to monitor pregnant women remotely.

Ashoka Fellow Kathryn Hall-Trujillo’s U.S.-based organization, the Birthing Project, trains mothers to become leaders and mentors for marginalized pregnant women in their communities. By pairing each vulnerable young pregnant woman with a volunteer “SisterFriend”, she is ensuring that every soon-to-be mother has someone monitoring her pregnancy and providing support and guidance throughout the process. If Kathryn is selected to take part in the program, her Young Champion will assist in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the Birthing Project in New Orleans, where it has recently launched a new regional office. During the nine-month mentorship, the Young Champion will work directly with SisterFriends volunteers, at-risk pregnant women from the community, staff and students from Tulane University, as well as health and social service providers.

Ashoka Fellow Jorge Lyra created Instituto Papai, an organization that addresses the needs of new and expecting fathers as a way to help them realize their potential to formally participate in the childbirth and childrearing process in Brazil. Through outreach, training workshops, and advocacy, his organization teaches men about responsible fatherhood and and reproductive rights. He encourages them to become more involved in maternal and family health. If Jorge is selected to participate in the program, his Young Champion will be involved in research and advocacy for a new campaign that aims to monitor and influence the development of public policies related to reproductive rights, while promoting the greater participation of men in processes of maternal health, fatherhood and child rearing.

Ashoka Fellow Luh Putu Upadisari is making health monitoring and services more accessible to traditionally marginalized women in Bali, Indonesia. Her organization, Yayasan Rama Sesana, is intentionally located in a densely populated marketplace to provide women market vendors and laborers with easy access to sexual, reproductive, and maternal health services. In addition to providing general medical check-ups, the center provides free and low-cost pap smears, contraception, pregnancy tests, prenatal care, and tests for STDs and HIV. It also holds monthly educational discussions on selected health topics. If Luh is selected to participate in the program, her Young Champion will work on a campaign to engage youth in the community with the organization’s services and programs by developing promotional and educational materials and targeted outreach tactics in schools, traditional markets, and village youth groups.

This article was originally published on February 4, 2010

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