The 14-year-old Girl Who Became a Midwife in a Labor Ward
By Francisco Fhote
Hers is an interesting story. A very curious one. You would think she is narrating a dream she had last night. Not until you hear the rest of it. “Iwe, nthawi yako yobeleka sidakwane, bwelera kunyumba. (You there, you’re not in labor yet, go back home).” That was a nurse talking to an expectant woman in the labor ward. The 14-year-old Dina was startled. She couldn’t believe that there was an expectant woman wailing in pain – awaiting delivery and yet nurses were giving her a cold shoulder, even insulting her. Dina watched, and watch she did, as the expectant woman labored in pain. She kept watching until the head of the expectant woman’s baby started coming out. “That’s when the nurses came to attend to her”, she narrates. “From there on, I made up my mind. To become a midwife. To assist expectant women and pregnant girls to prevent maternal deaths. And infant deaths. To make sure that expectant women get the right medical care and deliver without complications.” Dina explains. According to a study by USAID, Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios globally, currently estimated at 439 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Adolescent pregnancies comprise 29% of all births and 15% of maternal deaths. Neonatal mortality, often caused by birth asphyxia, premature birth, and infection, is estimated at 29 per 1,000 live births.
“I wasn’t afraid, in fact I was curious to witness the birth process, and how the nurses will treat the woman then”. Dina explains when she is asked as to why didn’t she run from the labor ward. Living with her Congolese family in Dzaleka refugee camp, she fell sick one day. As Dzaleka Health Centre in the camp was congested, she travelled to Dowa district hospital for medical attention. That was her first time being to the hospital. She moved around the hospital and ended up in the labor ward unknowingly. As fate would have it, that’s where her educational career took off! A befitting career you would say.
Born Dina Ishimo, she is an 18-year-old girl, first born in a family of 10. From Madisi secondary school, Dina got 22 points in the Malawi School Certificate of Exams in 2022. There is Hope started supporting her education in form 1, term 2. Her parents learnt of There is Hope from a staff member at Kibebe, a sister organization of There is Hope. They are of Rwandese origin and came in Malawi in 2001. Dina was born in Malawi. Her Rwandese parents are now subsistence farmers and stay in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Her father, Mr. Ali explains that “There is Hope came at the right time to assist us. We had lost everything in 2018 during the nationwide demonstrations and lootings which targeted foreigners. I was one of the victims. I was doing business in Rumphi district, so after that fateful event, I returned to Dzaleka Refugee Camp empty handed; my shop was looted”. Dina was in form 1, term 1 by then and Mr. Ali had paid for the first term of the school calendar but could no longer afford her school fees nor the transport. “I found hope in There is Hope. I would like to thank TIH and its supporters for sponsoring Dina’s secondary school education and now her university education as I cannot manage it”. Says a smiling Ali.
Dina’s dream came true when she got selected to Catholic University to pursue Nursing and Midwifery. She was over moon when she got that news as she knew that now she will be able to complete her studies. Dina says that this means a lot to her and her family. “This is an epitome of self-reliance for her family; all thanks to the Education Program from TIH”. Dina adds that her siblings are now very motivated to complete their studies having been inspired by her educational journey. Well, she has 5 sisters and 2 brothers looking up to her. That should really mean something.
Our secondary school scholarship program aims to keep deserving and vulnerable girls in school. Dina says that some of her schoolmates and classmates dropped out of school because of lack of school fees. She thanks There is Hope that she was able to complete her secondary school education. She also thanks TIH for the provision of learning materials and care packs as she had everything she needed to concentrate on her education. Dina is already a champion of the Education Program and she is giving advice to her peers in her community about the importance of education. She says that there are other girls who fail to complete education because of lack of fees therefore they will be motivated to look for sponsors like she did, or like her parents did. She feels sad to note that her peers are married or have kids outside wedlock before even completing secondary education because of poverty. “Even those that got married are struggling, I have seen most of them – married as they are, still rely on their parents for basic necessities. For the same reasons, I decided not to get involved in sexual activities!” She released a chuckle, in astonishment. The intelligent Dina said that it is not also wise for a young girl to get involved in sexual activities as it puts their lives at risk. “I also encourage girls my age that got married to end their marriages and return to school. More so now that the government allows teenage mothers to return to school”, she elaborates.
Dina also sees this educational opportunity as a force that will push her family’s social status up the ladder as after completing her studies, she will be able to assist her parents in running the affairs of the family. Her father, Mr. Ali echoes those sentiments saying that “Dina is my first-born child, as a family, we are banking our hopes on her”.
Dina would like to put to use the skills that she will attain after graduating in Nursing and Midwifery in order to contribute to the health sector in Malawi. She says that she would like to help the less privileged in the community. Dina encourages non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to support girls in their education in order to prevent unplanned pregnancies and early marriages which are some of the recipes for poverty. Dina sees herself as a role model in the community as some of her peers are already looking up to her.
Dina is one of our secondary school sponsored students that finished their studies last year. She is one of the 4 secondary school students that carried the TIH flag. When we spoke to her father, Mr. Ali, he was in tears of joy. “As a family, we celebrated when we received news that she has been selected to university. The situation in the camp is not conducive for the girl child. There is too much sexual activities among young people here. I am happy mine is pursuing further with her studies. Thank you for the support.” He concluded.