Changemaker:Dr. Nafisa AlJaifi

Location:Yemen

In Yemen, I played my part for reproductive and maternal healthcare by my work as a doctor and lecturer at the university, neonatology lecturer and as a pediatric doctor. Now, I’m playing my part for reproductive and maternal healthcare by advocating for safe motherhood issues in Yemen because safe motherhood is not a privilege – it is a human right.

I became involved with White Ribbon Alliance because I was looking to rescue the mothers of Yemen and save them from death during pregnancy and childbirth.

My name is Nafisa AlJaifi and I am from the Republic of Yemen. I am a pediatrician specializing in neonatology, as well as one of the founding members of the White Ribbon Alliance movement in Yemen. I started my work in the neonatal unit where it was my passion to see that every newborn I examined survived and had a better chance at a life free from disability or risk.

Because of my work in the neonatal unit, I was with mothers while they were in labor so that I could easily attend to their babies in case anything happened during childbirth. I saw too often mothers suffering, standing for nine months in pregnancy only to lose their babies – their gift after a long-lasting pregnancy – in one second because they had not received good or high-quality healthcare services during their pregnancies. Saving these mothers, saving these newborns, that is my mission in life.

At the time of the launch of White Ribbon Alliance in Yemen in 2007, Yemen had high mortality rates for mothers and newborns, bad distribution of health services in rural and urban areas, low awareness about the importance of safe motherhood both at the community-level and within the highest seats of power. Of course, that was then. With the war, it has become worse.

I became involved with White Ribbon Alliance because I was looking to rescue the mothers of Yemen and save them from death during pregnancy and childbirth. I wanted to improve lives and ensure better healthcare during pregnancy, labor and during childbirth – for both women and their newborns.

What is achieved by White Ribbon Alliance across the world reaches us in every National Alliance. Globally, WRA has empowered national safe motherhood alliances in many countries, across many continents. We saw the impact of WRA during the G8 summits that WRA Yemen participated in where it was just incredible to see WRA really push to make sure several safe motherhood issues were identified as priorities by the G8 leaders. Once that happened, the UN increased the budget globally for all the countries to focus on safe motherhood, which will be able to reach mothers, health services and health workers around the world. It truly impacted women everywhere, even beyond the National Alliances. If WRA had not pushed the G8 to focus on safe motherhood, we would not have been able to make the massive improvements we have done to reduce the number of preventable deaths in childbirth.

Before joining White Ribbon Alliance, I thought that it would take a long time or be nearly impossible to change the situation of mothers in Yemen. But, when I saw what the other National Alliances achieved, when I read their progress reports, how they overcame all their challenges, it gave me hope and inspiration. I would return to my work in Yemen with renewed energy and a lot of ideas. By being connected to the global alliance, I became more active in trying to change our policies in Yemen.

I loved working on White Ribbon Alliance’s awareness campaigns in Yemen. They had a huge impact and contributed to reducing the mortality rate of mothers and newborns because people learned about maternal health while also learning about the government programs available to improve health outcomes. We put together songs, plays, TV ads, TV interviews, and radio dialogues so it felt like everywhere you went, someone was talking about saving mothers. The awareness campaign was a gift and stimulated the people at the policy level to better support mothers, leading them to increase the financial budget from the government, and to ensure that there was an equal distribution of health services across rural and urban areas.

As part of the awareness raising campaign, we held an awareness orientation session about safe motherhood issues with policymakers and we worked with them to create a bylaw for safe motherhood. We also worked with them to raise the legal marriage age for women because we have a high percentage of child marriages, which of course contributes to higher maternal mortality rates. They worked hard with us and accepted all our proposals.

I left Yemen over two years ago. I had to travel twenty-three hours by bus to reach another city so that I could get to an airport that would let me travel outside of Yemen. It was not easy and everything I own is still back in Yemen, including my papers, my research, my reports, everything. I lost everything. I have spent the past year and a half worried about Yemen, but I am doing what I can do for the women and newborns in Yemen, even from a remote place like the United States.

Thank youDr. Nafisa AlJaifi

for playing your part.

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