Dinnah Nabwire and Mary Ajwang are transforming their society by focusing on sexual and reproductive health. They are both behind the Voices for Health Uganda, a platform that harnesses young voices on the needs of reproductive health.
Drawing from their diverse experiences and being from different parts of Uganda brings much-needed balance to their work as co-founders.
You’ve both chosen to build careers in global health, and particularly in reproductive health, despite having very different backgrounds. What was the moment you each knew that this was the field for you?
Dinnah: Working with Marie Stopes International through Global Health Corps gave me an opportunity to refine my career path with a focus on sexual and reproductive health. Through supporting programs related to advocacy and research on access and utilization of services, I have come to appreciate that sexual and reproductive health is central to all development interventions.
Through supporting programs related to advocacy and research on access and utilization of services, I have come to appreciate that sexual and reproductive health is central to all development interventions.
Mary: My initial exposure to reproductive health was during my clinical training and working as a frontline health care provider in health facilities in rural Uganda. I was drawn by the role women had in giving life but also distressed by the enormous hurdles they experienced.
I, therefore, decided that I was going to take on career opportunities that refine my ability to prevent maternal death through amplifying the safe motherhood message.
Did you both have a specific career strategy around addressing family planning?
Yes, we wanted to close the gap in access and utilization of family planning services. So we conceptualized the Voices for Health Uganda as a platform to harness young and often marginalized voices on needs and aspirations of productive health.
What are your predictions for your industry considering the recent moves by the US presidential administration to cut funding to global reproductive and sexual health initiatives?
Knowing that the US government is the largest bilateral funder for sexual and reproductive health globally, we are aware of the negative implication this has on financing for services in countries such as Uganda that are among the 24 family planning priority countries.
Globally, 225 million women have an unmet need for family planning whereas in Uganda the unmet need stands at 62%. This means that funding cuts towards family planning can impede the progress that has been previously made on access and utilization –this is unfortunate.
We, through Voices for Health Uganda, are working to close this gap by raising awareness on the need to connect global and in-country challenges to funding for reproductive health.Globally, 225 million women need family planning in Uganda the unmet need stands at 62% Click To Tweet
You two are quite the dynamic duo in advocacy and in life! What’s been your favorite part of leading alongside each other? What’s been the most challenging?
Favorite part: We enjoy debating concepts and taking the time to draw real life experiences to our work. Mary and I come from different parts of Uganda and thus each share different realities sometimes informed by our communities. Struggling to strike a balance in such cases has been the most intriguing.
Most challenging: Integrating our expectations in the voices for health Uganda within our daily activities and commitments remains a work in progress for us –we just know it has to work.
Sometimes as young women carving out our professional paths, we fear that asking for help, not knowing all the answers, and making mistakes are signs of weakness. What has your partnership taught you about this?
We were drawn to working together based on our different expertise, knowledge, and experiences. These have taught us to continuously appreciate each other’s competencies and encourage us to keep focused on our goal.
In the midst of your hustle, how do you each like to unwind and take care of yourselves?
We make time to hang out over caramel milkshakes at our fave place, #CafeJavas.
Mary, what’s one thing that inspires you about Dinnah?
Dinnah is intelligent, hardworking and has had exposure working with non-profits –things I wanted to learn and grow in.
Dinnah, what’s one thing that inspires you about Mary?
Working with Mary has continued to shape me into a positive-oriented and goal-focused person. There are times I would have preferred to step out, and all I needed is a positive guide.
What’s one thing you’ve each learned lately that you want to share with other young advocates interested in pursuing a career in social good?
Invest in growing networks through offering a clear value addition and seeking the opportunity to leverage skills, information, and engagement with others in the space.
For instance, we offer to take up high-level networking opportunities during partner-led events such as meetings and conferences.
What three words come to mind for each of you when you think of a true leader?
This was hard for us to choose! But, we think courage, resilience, and empathy are foundational for a true leader.
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