Inspiring Change

Posted by On March 7, 2014

International Womens Day 2014 Blog PhotoBy Andrea Kirsten-Coleman

In our work, saving a woman from dying of cervical or breast cancer can start with one inspiration – an encouraging word to visit a Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Clinic or an invitation to get an HPV vaccination. These small acts, started by one person, can literally change the course of the future for a woman.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and the theme of Inspiring Change we asked Doyin Oluwole, Executive Director, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, to give us a few examples of the many women who inspire her. Here’s what she had to say: Julianah Awujoola My main source of inspiration is my mom, the late Mrs. Julianah Awujoola. During my childhood in Nigeria she worked as a nurse midwife. Initially trained by US missionaries, she went on to establish a private nursing and midwifery home where women could safely deliver their babies. From a young age she allowed us to watch her work, caring for new mothers and babies. I had the privilege of witnessing numerous deliveries and — in a country with a high maternal mortality rate — I can honestly say I don’t ever recall any woman dying in childbirth. She was all about giving life. Her life inspired me to enter the medical profession, and to continue the family tradition of saving the lives of women and children. Former First Lady Laura Bush Former First Lady Laura Bush continues to inspire change through her work on global healthcare innovations and empowering women in emerging democracies. She is a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe. At the Bush Institute through the Education Reform initiative she works to improve student achievement through effective school leadership, middle school transformation, and the use of accountability. And she continues to work to promote women’s health through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Her passion, selfless commitment, and leadership have been an inspiration to me to do more for women and girls. Susan Banda As I travel around Africa, it’s the nurses that continue to inspire me. They are providers of hope. And they achieve a lot with very little. Susan Banda from Zambia is one example. She joined the Zambian cervical cancer prevention program in 2005 as one of the first nurses to be recruited and trained in visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and cryotherapy, a simple diagnosis and detection technique for pre-cancerous lesions. Since then Susan had screened over 10,000 women using VIA. She also was the first Zambian nurse to perform Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) for management of pre-cancerous lesions, a procedure usually performed by physicians. This is called task-shifting/sharing. She has performed over 1,000 LEEPs and helped train physicians in the procedure. I’m inspired by her dedication. Chalwa Hamusimbi Another nurse who is a source of inspiration is Chalwa Hamusimbi. Chalwa joined the Zambian cervical cancer program in late 2005. She has screened over 12,000 women, both at clinic level and through a mobile screening program. And she’s performed over 1,000 cryotherapy treatment procedures for pre-cancerous lesions. She is an amazing trainer who has helped open several clinics in Zambia in an effort to scale up services across the country. Chalwa is an example to me of what it means to bring hope to women. Dr. Mary Rose Giattas A cervical cancer prevention technical advisor for JHPIEGO  in Tanzania, Mary inspires me because of her quiet wisdom. She is responsible for training large numbers of healthworkers and is a tremendous resource for the Ministry of Health. Through her work with the Medical Women Association of Tanzania (MEWATA) she continues to build capacity and reproduce her skills in others. Dr. Sheenaz Al Habib As the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health in Botswana, Sheenaz is a model of tenacity to me. Trained as a physician, she uses her medical knowledge and strong relationships with government officials to ensure that the women of Botswana have access to the care they need. Under her leadership, the Botswana cervical cancer program is being expanded to provide improved access to women and girls. Of course, so many other women continue to motivate me. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Her Excellency, the First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata; Her Excellency, the First Lady of Tanzania, Mama Salma Kikwete; Dr. Sharon Kapambwe, Co-Director, Centre for Infectious Disease Research of Zambia (CIDRZ); Dr. Doreen Ramogola-Masire, Country Director of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership; Dr. Mimi Raesima, Program Manager, National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, Ministry of Health-Botswana; and Serafina Mkuwa, Chairperson of the Medical Women Association of Tanzania. Doyin’s words remind us that inspiration can come from obvious — and unlikely places. What will you do today to be an inspiring change? Andrea Kirsten-Coleman is Program Manager, Communications, Development and Partner Outreach, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.