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Sarah Lever

Sarah Lever, a doctor from London talks about her experience of volunteering with the Leading Safe Choices programme…

My first involvement in the Leading Safe Choices programme was participating in the pre-test of the specially developed curriculum in London. A wide range of healthcare workers from Tanzania, the U.K, South Africa, Nepal (and more!) came together to trial run and simultaneously scrutinise the training materials with the aim of perfecting the course. Maternal mortality rates remain high in Tanzania and South Africa. Poor access to effective methods of family planning in these countries is a major barrier to both reducing unwanted pregnancies and maternal mortality. Importantly it is also a factor which is preventative and can be addressed at relatively low cost and skill levels. Leading Safe Choices recognises this and I believe that through expert involvement and sufficient groundwork the RCOG has succeeded in developing a high standard course which is culturally appropriate, varied and engaging. I realised then that this was something which could empower women, save lives and have significant population level effect.

When the opportunity arose to help with the implementation of the Leading Safe Choices Postpartum Family Planning training in the Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania, I jumped at the chance. On arriving I was struck by the level of dedication of the national staff for the course and their careful preparation. The trainers had a breadth maternity and teaching experience. Their dedication to improving women’s health, despite difficult working circumstance, was inspiring. The course went well, participants who were nurses, midwifes and doctors from local health facilities, were engaged and energetic. I was able to watch how they grew in confidence through the week long course. Talking to participants informally during the week I heard the same story over and over, too many women were unable to get access to the long-acting contraceptives they wanted. This reiterated the importance of the Leading Safe Choices programme. By the end of the week I could also see how Leading Safe Choices was helping these health workers to feel valued; they had an important job to do and people cared enough to help train them to do it. Overall it was very rewarding and I learnt masses. I came back from Tanzania inspired and wishing to further my involvement in LSC but also reenergised to advocate for improved access to PPFP where I work in the U.K. I’m now very excited to see the outcomes from the involved health facilities and the women they serve.