The conclusion of my UNFPA The Gambia internship has crept up on me. In the process, I have become very attached to, what some of my UNFPA colleagues affectionately refer to as “[my] second office,” Bundung Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Hospital. The tentatively named Male Change Agent Initiative we have been working on has become fellow UNFPA summer intern, Jalang, and I’s blossoming project. We have dedicated much of our remaining time developing a concept note that considers the multiple factors involved in replicating Bundung MCH Hospital’s current male engagement clinic at other facilities. Since our first attendance at the hospital’s male clinic, we have participated in each weekly discussion-style session to observe how UNFPA could increase the current clinic’s capacity while preserving the elements that make it successful. It was also critical that the overall objective of encouraging men to be more involved during their wives’ pregnancies was not lost within any potential changes or improvements.
The work at Bundung has been receiving much-deserved recognition for the implementation of the male health talk clinic. The Minister of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) and First Lady of The Gambia made a joint appearance at the hospital, along with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) media team, to observe the initiated clinic and speak with families present. Prior to the event, Jalang and I were introduced to two representatives from the Gambia’s Extended Programme for Immunization (EPI), one of UNICEF Gambia’s governmental (i.e. MoHSW) implementing partners focusing on ensuring the timely vaccinations of Gambian children. The representatives were informed of UNFPA’s existing male involvement concept note and were interested in integrating childhood immunizations into the clinic talks and overall initiative. This has led to the Male Change Agent Initiative becoming a partnership between the MoHSW, UNICEF, UNFPA, and Bundung MCH Hospital.
It has been interesting watching the project gain magnitude and essentially have other agencies “buy in” to the significant role that males play in not only improving maternal health, but child health as well. The increased stakeholders in this project will allow for an increase in financial resources to implement male clinics in many other facilities around The Gambia. I intend to continue contributing to the project as it becomes a finalized proposal, and later, implemented initiative. Though male involvement became my internship focus towards the end, I have simultaneously ensured that I gained additional experience in other work that UNFPA supports. Experiences have included monitoring and evaluation treks to other facilities, trainings of community health workers on a variety of topics, and a march to celebrate World Population Day.
To say that I have simply enjoyed working at a wonderful organization would be an understatement. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to observe and learn from such highly qualified and passionate mentors. Here’s to hoping (as UNFPA mandate goes) that we all continue working towards a world where “every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”
Enjoy some pictures: