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Empowering African Women to Birth at WCH

HF12 African Women feature
WCH News
Posted 17 Apr 2024

At first I was very quiet. I didn’t think I had a voice. (Now) I know that I will be listened to and respected to have a say in how I give birth.” – Lemy

When Lemy fell pregnant in 2015, she had just moved to Australia from Uganda. The healthcare system was unfamiliar, and she heard many stories that she now knows to be untrue.

Thanks to a new partnership with the African Women’s Federation of South Australia (AWFOSA), the Women’s and Children’s Hospital is helping build the confidence of African women in the Australian maternity system by educating staff, encouraging open discussions and celebrating traditional birthing practices.

The program is helping our maternal care services to meet the unique cultural needs that African women might have throughout their birthing journey and empowering them to feel comfortable to speak up.

Lemy is one of the African women who have proudly helped develop a program and is now expecting her fourth child.

“Women know that when they come to WCH, they have a voice, and they will be asked the right questions, so they know they are part of the decisions and feel supported,” says Lemy.

“Because of the work we’ve done, the staff know how to communicate with African women and understand what’s important to us. Things like having a warm meal after giving birth, as we believe this helps nourish ourselves and our babies.”

Lemy says she understands how different it can be for African women in Australia compared with their home country. She is proud to be able to help them navigate the healthcare and family services available, including directing them to KidSafe for car seat fittings.

“We are a community that communicates, we are open and talk with each other and any time I hear someone repeat a story like the ones I heard when I first arrived, I comfort them and tell them how they will receive care better than they could ever have imagined,” she said.

Constance Jones, Manager of AWFOSA, has helped lead the program that has been recognised at both the Women’s and Children’s Health Network Excellence Awards and the Premier’s Excellence Awards.

“There were a lot of issues within the African communities with women not being comfortable when they came to hospitals to have babies. The Women’s and Children’s Hospital holds meetings where the women are being heard and share their stories,” said Constance.

HF12 African Women 2

– AWFOSA and WCH coming together to improve maternal care

HF12 African Women 1

– Constance Jones accepting The Consumer Partnerships Award at the 2023 WCHN Excellence Awards

Di Smith-McCue, Director of Consumer and Community Engagement at WCHN, has been part of the team who have transformed the valuable feedback into improvements within WCH and beyond.

“The African women that were part of our consumer forums, they feel confident to now be part of our WCHN consumer advocate team and ensure that their voice is embedded in all services across our Network,” she says.

To watch the nominations video from the 2023 WCHN Excellence Awards visit: The Excellence in Consumer Partnerships Award

For more information on WCHN Consumer Advocacy, visit the WCH website.