oo3. Motivations

jessica mun

The five major stakeholders to my project are Traditional Birth Attendants, women who have and haven’t had experience delivering a baby, village and family members, traditional healers, and the overarching Ministry of Health.

The TBAs are essential to the narrative because they play a huge role in acting as the bridge between the local community and the health care system and even the government. The local citizens of Sierra Leone are often distrustful of the government and hospitals. There was an incident where a 13-year-old pregnant girl was delivering a baby alone with a TBA. The door was locked and unfortunately, the girl died in labor before the community health worker came and broke down the door. This act of a government worker breaking down the door was symbolic and only enhanced the locals’ distrustful attitude. Meanwhile, TBA’s are trusted and respected figures by families in the village. And if the health professionals work closely with the TBA’s, together they can bring down the maternal mortality rates and work towards better communication between the government and the villages.

The women who have and haven’t had babies are also extremely important to our narrative because they are essentially the main characters and victims of the high maternal mortality rate. The older women who have given birth are generally more experienced and knowledgeable about the labor process and they are key to making decisions about the delivery of the baby for young women. Because it is a collective decision about how to handle a pregnancy, the older and experienced women are always present during the decision-making processes. Meanwhile, the younger women and girls who haven’t given birth yet are often left out of this process so all they can do is blindly follow what their elders and TBA’s tell them to do.

The other people who are left out of this decision-making process are the other friends and family members who have not had any experience in birthing. This includes men and children and although they may not play such a big role, it is important to hear their thoughts and opinions on what they think is best for the pregnant woman in the household, especially since men are the financial providers and the head of the family.

Traditional healers are also important players in the Safe Motherhood project because these are the accessible village practitioners who people often go to first when they are ill or have other medical emergencies. These healers will treat their community members out of genuine interest to make them better and even accept services in return, instead of money. In my research, I found out that instead of relying entirely on traditional healers or on the health care hospitals/clinics, people will use both forms of treatment which is known as medical pluralism. And I think it is important that both the traditional healers and members of the Ministry of Health are featured in the documentary.

Three ways I will validate my project and enhance my credibility will be by digging deep into the historical and socio-cultural contexts of Sierra Leone instead of viewing it through the lens of American context, talk to experts related to the Safe Motherhood project, and having a guided research outline or plan that will organize my findings. By considering these contexts, I will gain a better understanding as to why and how things are as they are, rather than merely assuming from an American perspective. By talking to experts in the health care field, professors who study in West Africa and know the political, economic, and cultural contexts, and other intellectuals, I will be able to have more credibility since there is only so much I can gather from my research behind a screen. Talking to people who have first-hand experiences will help me get a better sense of the full picture and fill in missing gaps that I myself am not even aware of. Lastly, by organizing my research plan, I can be prepared for the presentations without messily blurting out all of my findings randomly. Having a structure will allow others and me to comprehend the information with better flow and the referees can ask questions easily as well.

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