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In spite of UN targets that aim to drastically improve maternal health by 2015, Malawi still has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world. Through the THET programme, UK midwife trainer Beth Connelly is spending a year at a hospital in rural Malawi sharing vital midwifery skills with more than 200 students. Addressing the chronic shortage of trained health professionals is seen as key to help directly reduce the number of mothers and babies needlessly dying in childbirth.
Born and raised in a rural Himalayan village in Nepal, Durga Khatri was just 14-years-old when she was forcibly married. Pressure from her husband’s family forced her to drop out of school, but she managed to fit in time around her housework to complete a degree. Today, Durga is a strong advocate for girl’s education in her village, and is involved in local decision-making supported by VSO partner WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum). VSO volunteer Cath Nixon conducts women’s leadership training for Durga and other women in Himalayan villages.
Ganga Adhikari struggled to gain acceptance from her husband’s family because she is from a lower-caste, but her involvement in decision-making at the village level through VSO partner WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum) has helped her to earn their respect. Now she is an advocate for equality between men and women. VSO volunteer Cath Nixon conducts women’s leadership training for Ganga and other women in Himalayan villages near Dailekh, Nepal.
As the oldest female leader in her village and one of the founding members of VSO partner organisation WEAF (Women’s Empowerment Action Forum), 70 year-old Mandara Malla has witnessed firsthand the changing role of women in rural Nepal. She’s played a key role in her community ensuring national policy on child marriage, polygamy and domestic violence is implemented at the village level. VSO volunteer Cath Nixon works through WEAF alongside Mandara and other women in rural Nepal to further empower women in the village with leadership skills.
After working for many years in education management across schools in the UK, head teacher Ludiya Besisira decided to undertake a two-year VSO placement in Nepal before retiring. Passionate about the role strong leadership can play in transforming schools, she worked alongside senior education management and head teachers at Nepal’s under resourced government schools supporting them to develop and implement strategic plans to radically improve the quality of education for thousands of children.
Educational volunteer Beth Stillings-Cohen has spent two years working in a cluster of rural government schools in Nepal with VSO. After identifying schools with high dropout rates, especially amongst marginalised children, she’s supported headteachers and teachers to improve the overall quality of education. Beth has seven years experience as a primary school teacher in the UK.
Women suffer disproportionately from access to quality health services in rural Nepal. Although the frequency of maternal deaths in Nepal has significantly reduced, pregnancy related complications remain high, especially in rural areas. VSO volunteer public health nurse Cath Nixon has taken a two year career-break from the NHS to work alongside health workers in a district hospital and across villages in mid-west Nepal to improve standards of care and raise awareness of health issues affecting women.
Balila, a 12 year old girl living in northern Ghana, was born with a disability that affects her growth and her ability to walk. When she was younger, she often missed going to primary school to avoid being mocked by the other children. All of that changed when Balila joined her school’s gender club, where she felt included and was encouraged to speak and take part in activities, building her confidence. Now that Balila has made it to high school, she’s encouraging other girls to take part. VSO volunteer Damien Gregory helped create the club, aimed at tackling the social issues affecting girls' education.
Around 600,000 people in Cameroon are living with HIV and AIDS, with women being particularly vulnerable. High mother to baby transmission rates mean that thousands of children in Cameroon are also living with the disease, although almost half of these children fail to turn up for treatment. VSO volunteer Paediatrician Tamara Bugembe is helping nurses improve care for mothers, children and babies in Bamenda Regional Hospital, northwest Cameroon, and increase awareness in the local area.