St Albans midwife promoting safe sanitary wear in impoverished African communities

Joanna Brown is working with Christian charity Jenga

Joanna Brown, who studied at St Albans Girls’ School, is working with Christian charity Jenga near the Kenyan border. - Credit: Supplied

A St Albans midwife is soon flying back to Africa to continue work on a pioneering project aimed at improving women’s health in Eastern Uganda.

Joanna Brown, who studied at St Albans Girls’ School, is working with Christian charity, Jenga, based in Mbale, near the Kenyan border. She is supported by the congregation at St Paul’s Church, Fleetville, and other friends.

Joanna has launched ‘Every Girl’, a sustainable project to provide every girl and woman with safe sanitary wear and promote vital information about menstrual and reproductive health across the wider community.

Supplied

St Albans midwife Joanna Brown in Uganda. - Credit: Supplied

She explained: “Many of the women we work with are not able to afford safe sanitary wear so they often use unsafe alternatives like newspaper, which can cause infections.

“In response, we train local volunteers to teach women and girls how to make sanitary wear out of locally-sourced items and provide training on menstrual health and hygiene. They are then taught to share this knowledge with women and girls in their communities.

“We are also starting a venture to make period underwear to be sold at reduced prices to women and girls in our communities.”

Joanna, who worked at a busy London hospital for three years after qualifying as a midwife, has been working in Uganda for the past three years. The vast majority of staff working with Jenga are Ugandans, with the few overseas volunteers working to pass on their roles to local staff.

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She explained: “To see improvements in women's health and wellbeing we need to empower men and women together. So we are also passionate about teaching men about women's health. The training for men includes sessions covering menstruation and how to plan for and support a family.”

Joanna enjoys her work and sees the role as a key part of her Christian faith, but admits there are challenges: “The impact of health inequalities is very real and devastating. Many women tell me of friends who have died due to causes related to pregnancy and birth and it’s not uncommon for hospital blood banks to be empty.

“Malaria, the sixth top cause of death worldwide, takes the lives of 200 people in Uganda each day. Just last year, I lost a good friend to the disease.”

There is more about Joanna’s work in Uganda at www.jengauganda.org and www.everygirlproject.org