Rayhan is all set to save mothers


Rayhan is all set to save mothers

Rayhan Alem, 22-year-old native of Badakhsan province in Afghanistan’s far northeast, had wanted to be a midwife since she was a teenager, which was when she had first heard of a neighbour succumbing to childbirth.

“The story of why I wanted to become a midwife started in my own village. When I was a high school student, I was walking back home from school one day and learned that my neighbour’s wife had died in childbirth. It really pained me and I thought if I became a midwife, I could help the women of my village and assist with safe deliveries. When I discussed this with my father and mother and other family members, they really appreciated my idea and assured me that they would always be on my side. This boosted my morale and made my decision to become a midwife stronger,” she narrates.

How she started out

After she graduated from high school, Alem sought admission to a midwifery school and successfully completed a two-year programme. She finished her training from Kabul’s Midwifery Institute of Higher Education in early 2015 but without any work experience to back her up, she wasn’t able to find a job in any of the Afghan capital’s maternity hospitals.

Fortunately, with support from UN Women, she was able to secure an internship at Ali Seena Hospital that has given her the opportunity to prepare for a fruitful career. “After graduation, I had to work in a hospital to practise my skills. Luckily, (at the time) I also heard about UN Women’s internship programme. I successfully passed the entrance exam and attended two months of training where I picked up valuable skills such as being a good listener, preparing a CV, applying for jobs, and interview techniques and a lot of other things,” she explains.

The internship

As part of its mission to empower women economically, UN Women Afghanistan started a comprehensive Internship Programme in December 2015 for 50 female university graduates seeking to enter the job market. The six-month programme is implemented by the Afghanistan Holding Group, a human resources consulting firm, and funded by UN Women.

The women first receive two months of classes on professional development skills including personal development and leadership, office management, use of office equipment and tools, language and communication, preparing a CV, applying for jobs, and sitting for an interview. They are then placed in a four-month internship at government offices, NGOs, private firms, and financial and other institutions to gain practical work experience in their chosen fields. UN Women provides the women stipends during the internship period.

After Alem completed two months of in-class training she was placed at Ali Seena Hospital, where she worked for four months. “During my first two months, I assisted other midwives during delivery, and in the next two months, I will get the chance to attend deliveries independently. This is a golden opportunity for me to practice midwifery and develop the skills midwifery requires,” she elaborates.

Earning people’s trust

As soon as she is done with her practice stint at Ali Seena Hospital, she will go back to her province, Badkhshan, and work at the government clinic in my village. “I know that I will have a very difficult time there because I am a recent graduate with less experience in this field, and I assume that women who come to the clinic for delivery or to receive guidance on their pregnancy may not trust my ability and expertise but I am ready to work hard to prove myself to people and win their hearts,” she says confidently.

“Everyone knows that the shortage of midwives in Afghanistan is a big problem and this is one of the reasons behind the high mortality rates. I believe with the increase in the number of skilled midwives, the mortality rates will decrease. I am sure that all midwives will be very proud of their work because they are saving the lives of mothers and babies.

My role as a midwife will impact service delivery because I am a skilled and trained midwife and it is obvious that when midwives are properly trained, of course, they can offer cost-effective and quality services to the community,” she adds.

Alem acknowledges that “if UN Women didn’t have the internship programme, my dream to become a skilled midwife [may] never have come true”. She recalls, with a smile, “During the first day of my in-class training, I couldn’t speak in front of others because I was so shy. But after receiving training on leadership and communication skills, I am able to apply the skills I learned and speak with my own voice.”

Indeed, with the right kind of support young women like Alem are being empowered to bring about a positive change in their already distressed communities.

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