On March 11, 2019 Philanthropy Circuit hosted an insightful and engaging tweet chat on the topic ‘What Women Want: #BalanceforBetter’ with the Wellbeing Foundation Africa represented by its Chief Executive Officer, Amy Oyekunle.
Wellbeing Foundation Africa was founded in 2004 by Her Excellency, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, a leading healthcare philanthropist, to improve health outcomes for women and children in Nigeria and Africa.
With their mission of successfully delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through education, empowerment and advocacy for accessible and sustainable health in Africa, the WellBeing Foundation has since inception recorded participation of over 200,000 women in their Midwifery Initiative Program – ‘MamaCare’ with successful delivery of over 250,000 babies.
Here are some highlights of the live Question and Answer discussion on Twitter:
How does #genderinequality affect opportunities for girls and women, particularly in health?
Experience shows that when a girl or women is empowered it influences health outcomes not just for her, but her family and community as well. In Africa, gender inequality affects girls and women in several ways. For instance, a lack of access to education limits a girl’s access to sexual and reproductive education and information and automatically limits her health choices and possible outcomes. Globally, girls make up about 60% of the out-of-school children, and about 82% of girls are married off before they are 18 years old. Majority of married girls begin to have children very early – again with limited information and access to health facilities. Statistics show that up to 80% of maternal deaths could be avoided w/ proper access to basic healthcare services, & that women who have access to finance spend more on the health & education of their children. Consequently, a combination of limited or no education, early marriage & a lack of access to adequate information & healthcare has been shown to negatively impact fertility rates, birth spacing, & health behaviours.
How is the Foundation trying to address these inequalities in Nigeria?
The Foundation is working with women & girls across the country, providing access to health education & care while fostering a system where women & girls have the information they need to make the right decisions about their health. Our Adolescent Skills and Drills Programs is providing physical, sexual and health education for young girls in various schools in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, and the FCT. Educating them about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, nutrition and responsible relationships. Educating them about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, nutrition and responsible relationships. Through our youth program, we have reached over 1500 girls and donated hundreds of our handbooks to the schools we have worked with, and are reaching out to more schools across the country. Our Midwives are our frontline staffs, who run our MamaCare Antenatal and Postnatal Education Program. Our midwives are bridging the gap in mothers accessing midwives throughout the continuum of care, from pre-pregnancy till when babies are 5 years old. Our midwives carry out out in-facility and home visits in over 70 hospitals in Lagos, Kwara, Osun, and the FCT through the MamaCare Program, but are reaching mothers in over 650 hospitals in these states through our several other programs and partnerships. We have been able to reach over 300,000 mothers since the inception of the program and we haven’t lost any of these mother. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa has also partnered with key stakeholders in the financial sector to provide a birth preparedness savings scheme for mothers.
Is Nigeria on track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to women and health (SDG 3 and 5)?
Our efforts are still a tip of the iceberg, compared to what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. For instance, 1 of the targets for SDG3 is to Achieve #UHC, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services & access to safe, effective, quality & affordable essential medicines & vaccines for all. A major issue that we see with pregnant women not coming to facilities is because of the point of care expenses. This makes many women wait until there is a complication with dire consequences on both the mother and her baby. At Wellbeing Africa, we believe that UHC will go a long way to providing women with affordable healthcare which in turn will help to reduce maternal complications and deaths. I will say that with increased government and private sector commitment and investment we will certainly be moving in the right direction.
Based on this year’s theme for #IWD2019, how is your advocacy work helping to create better balance and inclusion for girls and women?
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s advocacy work is in line with the #IWD2019 theme because we are working to improve education for women and girls, especially with regards to their sexual and reproductive health, and also fostering access to better healthcare for mothers. We believe that we can attain #balanceforbetter when girls and women have the right information that can enable them make lifesaving health decisions whilst having the ability to reach a healthcare professional whenever necessary. This is the major goal of our programs across the country, and with the right education, financial capacity, and healthcare, we can indeed have a world that is #balanceforbetter.
It is widely known that African governments have very low healthcare budgets. What more can be done to encourage African governments to increase financial commitments to improving the provision of health care services?
In Nigeria, we are glad that the National Assembly during this 8th Assembly announced the 1% Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to boost the provision of the Basic Primary Healthcare Services across the country. his was especially exciting, as our Founder-President, H.E. Mrs Toyin Ojora-Saraki, chaired the National Assembly Primary Healthcare Revitalization Support Group, which was a key stakeholder in lobbying for this move towards the development of the healthcare sector. With the implementation of key strategies such as the 1% CRF, healthcare within Africa will witness a boost in the right direction. Government across all levels, can further strengthen and implement policies that improves on the current health insurance scheme, making healthcare accessible and affordable. We recognise that government cannot do it all alone, that is why the Wellbeing Foundation Africa acknowledges the role partnerships particularly – the private sector plays to ensure growth in the healthcare space. With partnership, we can build a sustainable healthcare sector, where trained healthcare workers with modern facilities are accessible to every citizen.
As a leading healthcare #philanthropy in Africa, would you consider your work successful, and if so, what has enabled this success?
Yes, I would say our work at the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has been largely successful. Several reasons have enabled this. First, our dedicated frontline team of health workers and staff – who are based at the grassroots working with mothers and other healthcare providers to enlighten, advocate, teach and learn from women/mothers and families on what women want to ensure a safe quality of care for them and their little ones. Secondly, our strategic partnerships with organizations that share our passion and goal to improve the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health & nutrition (RMNCAH+N) indices of Nigeria. But perhaps more importantly, because we have a Founder-President who is quite passionate to bring change on narrative around maternal & child health & is committed to be an advocate while working tirelessly to ensure we do just that.
A great way African donors and philanthropists can get involved is to unequivocally support programmes that address gender inequality in any shape or form. Health programmes that provide access to information & the much-needed resources to address maternal & child mortality, women’s empowerment girls’ education, financial inclusion, sexual & reproductive health just to mention a few. I am a firm believer of supporting what works particularly a programme that can be taken to scale in many countries – that’s another good way of reaching more women & girls with life-saving information & resources.
For more information about the Wellbeing Foundation Africa visit their website.