By Kyla Martinson (McGill Nursing Intern)
As I leave Shanti Uganda and the Kasana community after spending a whirlwind month here I can honestly say I never imagined I would have the experiences that I did and meet the people I had the true privilege of getting to know so well. I have genuinely seen what true resilience is from the people of Uganda. The mothers, teen girls groups, and HIV positive income generating groups have confirmed to me the strength women possess and their ability to overcome the hardships that are placed on them purely due to the fact that they were born female. Young girls who have lived through more hardships than one could imagine, yet they sing from deep in their soul and dance like life has never done them wrong.
I leave with memories of inspiration, courage, and new friends, but I also leave with haunting memories of women delivering babies on the ground of the hospital floor. The pain and agony on a new mother’s face as she was stitched for an hour after a mutilating episiotomy without a single pain killer available in the entire hospital is forever etched in my mind. Injustices that once you have seen you can never forget and I hope that I never do.
These events go to show the vital work that Shanti Uganda is doing and the quality of care that mothers deserve and should automatically receive not only as an integral part of society but as human beings. Once you have seen the injustices that women experience, in particular regarding childbirth, you are not able to return to your life at home without the burning urge that change must take place. This sense of urgency for change is what led to the creation of Shanti, and I hope one day the pregnancy and birthing experience that mothers have at Shanti Uganda, where women’s bodies are celebrated and utilized as the experts in the birth experience, is an experience that mothers across Uganda and elsewhere can share in. Until the day that a positive pregnancy test does not indicate an uncertain future for a women’s social, mental, and physical health Shanti Uganda’s model of a natural, yet safe and empowering birthing experience will continue to lead the way for women’s equality.