“Society is not well informed on adolescent, girl child issues”
Dr. Abosede Lewu is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (@naijaobgyndoctor), development practitioner, girls/women right and education advocate and an aspiring author. She is the founder of Girlsaide Initiative; an NGO focused on girls, women and underserved communities. Girlsaide Initiative is currently implementing several projects around sexual and reproductive health and contributing towards achieving the SDGs.
Abosede has over 15 years experience on adolescent based issues with her interest and passion spanning back to her undergraduate years. She was a member, secretary and vice president of Action Group on Adolescent Health (AGAH) under the Campaign Against Unwanted pregnancy during her undergraduate years. She actively serves as a facilitator, volunteer and mentor to several young people with numerous organizations. She is a Mandela Washington Fellow (Young African Leadership Initiative) a flagship programme by President Barrack Obama recognising young Africans showing leadership skill and improving lives and their communities.
An alumnus of University of Maiduguri, where she graduated with Honours, she is continuously learning with various certifications such as Nonprofit Executive Program: Mendoza Business School from University of Notre Dame USA, Community health for all through Primary Health Care from John Hopkins University and Basics of Health Economics from World Bank Institute. She is a Member, West African College of Surgeons and Member, National Postgraduate Medical College. She is happily married with children. She shares her inspiring story in this exclusive interview.
Yes, my childhood definitely did; we nearly lost our mother during childbirth of one of my younger siblings. As a kid then, I saw the doctors that saved her as angels that gave me back my mother and really wanted to be able to do the same for other families.
Growing up was interesting; we are 5 kids, I am the second born and first daughter. My parents were civil servants and we travelled a lot due to my father’s work; this had made me make friends all over the country. I am also one of those lucky girls; my father and mother raised us to be ambitious and fearless. Growing up, I never saw myself as someone that could not do anything I set out my mind to do.
Inspiration behind Girlsaide Initiative
I was inspired to start Girlsaide because of the experiences and cases I saw as a medical student and medical doctor; young girls and women presenting with life threatening and sometimes, life-taking complications that could have been prevented.
I also noticed a disconnect between parents and their adolescent daughters and decided to create a platform that allows the girls, women and the communities they live in to thrive.
The Journey so far
It’s been enlightening and challenging at the same time; I have learned and stretched beyond my greatest imagination. It has also become an amazing platform for me to meet a lot of change makers nationally and internationally.
It has evolved to include projects such as ‘Get a Pap Campaign’ to reduce cervical cancer, to Keep All Mothers Alive project to prevent maternal and perinatal deaths and our COVID-19 response. Some others focused on parents with adolescent daughters girls and those leaving to obtain higher education. We keep evolving to address issues affecting our niche; it has made me more of a development practitioner.
Being an Obstetrician, Gynecologist, girl child advocate, wife and mum, and managing it all
Sometimes, I can’t explain how I juggle all, but let me try. Once you realise balance is in constant motion, you do what is most important at each time. So, sometimes you have to prioritise being a mother and a wife above all. Then, sometimes, you have to prioritise your work and your calling.
I also enjoy an amazing support system on the home front and my whole family, we plan together even before rolling out. This gives me confidence that when balance seems to be tilting towards work, they are in good hands. Shout out and thank you to my hubby and the whole family; I also have an amazing inner circle of friends and team members.
The advocacy and community work we do has become teamwork and that makes sharing of roles and duties easier and more effective. There is also my ultimate joker, the God factor; He is my ultimate muscle.
Inspiration behind @naijaobgyndoctor platform and its impact since inception
It still boils down to my experiences. People call me everyday on different health challenges; myths, avoidable complications and I am always surprised by how much misinformation that is out there. Also with the mass migration of health workers to outside shores, the number of specialists to people population is getting lesser.
How about people that cannot access me directly or other doctors? I decided to give it a try. The impact in this short time across my social media platform has been amazing; I have been able to provide consultations, referral services to women and families. I am also actively engaging influencers to demystify and educate through healthy conversations around health and well-being.
I also noticed a lack of support for women who have had miscarriages, stillbirths or lost a child and launched Rainbow Blooms to support them; the uptake of that has also been phenomenal. The Society and its level of awareness on issue centered on adolescents, and the right of the girl child; society is not as well informed as it should be on adolescent issues or girl child issues. Most of this results from the underestimation of their minds and capability and not realising that youthfulness is strength.
Another issue affecting this information is that some people are not willing to embrace the fact that the roles, dreams and aspirations of girls have changed so they will rather keep upcoming girls uninformed so as to maintain status quo. Things are however changing; it may not be as fast as we hope for but there is a forward movement especially with organisations like yours and ours and other advocates continuously pushing the conversations that engage adolescents and girls.
On young girls who need a listening ear, but scared to open up
A problem shared is a problem half solved. This really frustrates me especially with regards to their reproductive health and cases of drug abuse. When girls get into trouble, only few have the confidence and the kind of relationship it takes to walk up to their parents and guardians to talk to them. Instead, they go to their friends who don’t know so much. I implore them to please speak up. The fear you have is not as big as the trouble you can get into with wrong advice.
Deliberately seek out your parents to also build a solid relationship with them. As young girls, they may not believe this, but they are not your enemy, don’t lock them out. If this does not work, look within your family and find a responsible confidant
Challenges of being girl child advocate
Sometimes, you meet people who feel that the girl child issues have been talked about too much and we should all move on. A stronger challenge comes from the gate keepers of culture and tradition who want things to continue as they are; girls not going to school, marrying them off young, ostracising teenage mothers, not paying attention to their menstrual health etc. This can be frustrating, especially when they are women. The challenge of explaining and defining the real meaning of feminism and gender equity is also there.
Being a Woman of Rubies
I am a woman of rubies because I am innovative, solution oriented; not observing rather I am actively working to provide solutions to problems affecting my gender and community.
Nuggets on how girls can protect themselves during the Pandemic
Protect yourself from COVID19 by practicing all safety measures; stay home, wash your hands, use facemasks when needed and maintain social distance. Protect yourself from dangers that can arise due to COVID19; don’t succumb to negative peer pressure, don’t experiment with bad stuff just because you are at home and bored. If you feel unwell, speak to your parents and guardians; please do not self medicate for any condition you may be experiencing. This too shall pass. Naija Obgyn Doctor is a health service provision entity that focuses on women, all health services related to them especially sexual and reproductive health.
Call To Action
I want to use this opportunity to call on the government at all levels, private sector leaders and philanthropists, to make investment in health a top priority and know that only healthy citizens can create and maintain wealth and build the economy.
No comments yet