Women of Kibirto
For generations, rural Ethiopians have delivered at home, a practice that has contributed to one of the highest national maternal mortality rates in the world. Now, with the help of Glimmer’s Kibirto Health Center, a group of women in rural Tigray are improving health care for mothers and children in their community.
Meet six women who are challenging long-held birth traditions and saving lives.
Women’s Development Army Volunteer
Roman is a group leader in Ethiopia’s Women’s Development Army, a volunteer network working to promote healthy behavior in rural areas. She goes door-to-door in her community, advising families on sanitation and hygiene practices, early marriage, family nutrition and maternal care. Once a month, Roman and 30 other Women’s Development Army volunteers meet to share progress updates from their community and receive new instructions and training from the Kibirto Health Center and local government. She is part of a movement of 3 million Women’s Development Army members who are changing cultural norms and improving health care for women and children across rural Ethiopia.
IN HER WORDS: “Mothers are now accustomed to delivering at the health center. They are receiving prenatal and antenatal care and taking their children for vaccinations. These are improvements.”
After completing college in Aksum town, 25-year-old Alemteshai became a midwife. Today, she loves her job working in Glimmer’s newly built health center in Kibirto and has helped deliver the babies of 113 mothers who previously did not have access to health centers close to their homes. Alemteshai and the other passionate staff members, working and living alongside her, support women in labor and teach patients about antenatal care, nutrition and family planning.
IN HER WORDS: “It is really a privilege for me to support sick women. It gives me happiness to help mothers give birth.”
Merhawit believes that as a health professional, her greatest responsibility is to serve her community. She divides her time at Kibirto between supporting deliveries, counseling women on family planning and proper nutrition, and training local volunteers to communicate the importance of vaccinations and prenatal care to the larger community.
IN HER WORDS: “It is very pleasing to see mothers giving safe birth. I like to see sick ones getting better after treatments they received by me and colleagues.”
Maaza is waiting to deliver her baby. The midwife has told her that she will soon go into labor, so Maaza will stay at the health center instead of returning home. She, like many women in Kibirto, is taking advantage of the new maternity waiting room where expecting mothers can reside for days or weeks until delivery. While they wait, they can relax on the front porch or make meals in the kitchen.
IN HER WORDS: “We used to travel three to four hours to Zana Town to get better medical services including delivery. Mothers did not want to go there. The long trip was very difficult for pregnant mothers.”
After suffering severe complications during two homebirths, Atsede was concerned about the delivery of her third baby. A health advocate in her village encouraged her to visit Kibirto Health Center. Atsede learned that the resources at the new facility could save her life and the life of her baby. Atsede safely delivered her baby and celebrated her child’s birth with the customary traditions, including genfo, a porridge made with local grains, prepared by her family in the Kibirto Health Center kitchen.
IN HER WORDS: “It is very lucky for us to get such service. I am very happy. I would have died if I had not come here. Here after, if I give birth, I will not do it at home.”
Wahid and her husband are thrilled to have a healthy, baby girl. Wahid gave birth, free of any complications, with the support and care of health center staff. The medical professionals at the Kibirto Health Center and the Women’s Development Army advised her on maternal health services and methods to make her home safe for her new baby. In a few days, the midwife will visit her family at home to ensure they are thriving.
IN HER WORDS: “If there was any problem on the course of my delivery, I would be helped by the health experts and provided with solutions soon. That’s why I wanted to give birth at the health center.”