Adepeju Jaiyeoba: Building Stronger And More Confident Women Means Progress For the Community
As the deadline to achieving the Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) draw nearer, Nigeria continues to fall short of reducing maternal mortality rate by 75 percent and achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.
Second only to India as the country with the highest maternal mortality rate, Nigeria currently accounts for over 14 per cent of the World’s maternal deaths.
According to UNFPA representative in Nigeria, Ratidzai Ndhlovu, ‘75 per cent of these deaths can be averted if women had access to commodities and if women had access to interventions for preventing or treating pregnancy and birth related complications; in particular hemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, eclampsia and obstructed labour.’
To the rescue is Adepeju Jaiyeoba, a young Nigerian trained-lawyer on a mission to end maternal mortality in Nigeria, especially in rural communities where most of these deaths occur.
Adepeju is the founder and Executive Director of Brown Button Foundation and Maternal Kit Delivery, which provides maternal delivery kits containing sterile supplies to be used at childbirth.
A Mandela Washington Fellow, Adepeju was recently in Washington for the White House Emerging Global Entrepreneurs Event where she met US President, Barack Obama who lauded her for “doing extra-ordinary things … to save the lives of countless mothers and their babies.”
Rural Reporters recently chatted with Adepeju and she tells us how she is helping to eradicate maternal and infant death in Nigeria and why women must continue to serve as example to other women in achieving their dreams.
What does Brown Button do and how did you come about this name?
Brown Button Foundation trains birth attendants across rural communities in Nigeria while Mothers Delivery Kit provides sterile supplies for women to use at Childbirth. The name Brown Button is derived from acknowledging the skin colour, brown, and then Button is maintaining a connection to the belly button or navel hence the name Brown Button.
Is Brown Button and Mothers Delivery Kit the same entity or a subsidiary of each other?
Brown button was created in 2011 but Mothers delivery kit was established in 2013 because we realised the problem was beyond just training birth attendants.
Tell us about your career path from being a trained lawyer to a maternal health advocate and the founder of Brown Button?
Career switch most times is connected with identifying and living for purpose. The truth is as a maternal health advocate, law never really leaves all I do. Yes, I run Brown Button Foundation and Mothers Delivery Kit Ltd in Nigeria but we still have issues of law like medical negligence leading to death connected to maternal health advocacy. Working in the field of maternal health for me is about following my passion.
You are a trained lawyer, how do you make expert decisions on maternal mortality issues which are the core interest of Brown Button?
As a trained lawyer, I do innovation and strategy for the organisation and do not do core medical duties or expert decisions. We have a team of medical doctors who work with us headed by Dr. Aderemi Mabadeje. We also have many other advisors like Professor Dada and several other medics and young doctors as well as midwives who support our work. This helps a lot because I tend to think outside the box within the medical circle. My work experience in global health at the United Nations Foundation has also helped.
From experience, will you say that maternal health has been given the required attention it deserves in Africa, especially in Nigeria?
While it will not be wrong to say that various African governments are doing a number of things to improve maternal health, it is right to say much more needs to and can be done. In many communities we still have posted midwives not staying due to lack of incentives, sometimes even they are owed salaries reducing motivation to work while not forgetting incessant strikes in the health sector that leads many to unhealthy alternatives.
What do you think are the major cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria, especially in rural communities?
Major causes of maternal mortality especially in rural communities includes but isn’t limited to lack of access to quality healthcare practitioners which has brought about a dependency on traditional birth attendants and lack of access to sterile supplies at childbirth. Other reason includes Women giving birth on bare floor, Midwives using mouth to suck out mucus, among other things.
In rural communities, most women do not have access to quality ante-natal care. Is there a role your organisation is playing in this?
Our organisation is training birth attendants in many rural communities to improve their understanding of identifying complication and referral. Local Government officials also use our kits to promote antenatal attendance by purchasing them from us and making them free for women who attend the minimum number of antenatal.
In your interview with The Guardian UK, you said you have trained over 8,000 birth attendants till date. Can you mention some of these communities?
We worked with the First Lady of Kastina State to train birth attendants across all senatorial districts in Kastina State, we also trained birth attendants in Ogun and Zamfara States including smaller communities in Lagos like Ibeju Lekki.
However, we work majorly in the northern part of Nigeria because that is where mortality rates are the highest.
What does the maternal kit comprise and how can the public have access to it?
It contains 15 essential sterile supplies required at childbirth to promote clean safe and hygienic delivery. The public can access it by contacting us or placing an order through our website.
Supplies in the kit includes: Delivery mat, Infant receiver, Mucus extractor, Cord clamps, amongst other things.
Since most rural women arguably trust birth attendant (mama igbebi), does your organisation come in at any point to educate them on certain things?
Yes, we educate them on identifying complications, importance of using clean sterile supplies at childbirth as well as the importance of early referral.
How has the reception been? What are the challenges and prospects in your work especially in rural community?
The reception has been amazing. One major challenge is accessing these communities but working with midwives, primary health care centres and birth attendants have helped eased that.
Is there room for other people to help with your project and how can this be done?
Yes, they can support us by volunteering, purchasing the kits in large quantities for distribution or making financial contributions to our effort.
From YALI to your current fellowship in the United States, how has it all helped your business especially in communicating your organisation vision and goals to the public especially in rural communities you work?
I think more people have an understanding of the challenges in the health sector now and many more understand that seeing opportunities and not problems is the first step to building the Africa of our dreams. The fellowships equip with latest learnings and experiences to be able to build a better company and organisation by putting the people we serve at its centre.
Women are increasing coming out to the spotlight unlike before when they have to take a backseat in societal growth. As a young leader, why do you think it is important for women to step out of their comfort zone to take charge?
Building stronger and more confident women means progress for the community and nation as a whole. Women must continue to serve as example to other women that truly, the end of all their goals and aspiration isn’t the kitchen as is traditionally believed. A woman can have it all too.
Hearing your story present a picture of someone that knows what she wants an go for it. What have you learn from pursuing your dream and what advise do you have for young people out there?
I have learnt from my journey that persistence pays, that dreams come true, that resilience is a virtue all should imbibe and that NO doesn’t mean stop. Young people out there should always believe in the possibilities of their dreams.
To be part of Brown Button’s initiative, send a mail to: