Respectful maternity care? Just ask Valentina

Valentina Dzamesi, a third-year midwifery student, has dreams of opening her own maternity home one day.

Her journey as a midwife began when she was a community health nurse in Western Ghana. One day she witnessed a birth in her community where the baby died. Valentina believed that she could have prevented the baby’s death if she had possessed better skills. Ever since, Valentina has been determined to become a midwife and ensure that women have access to high-quality care and are treated with respect and dignity.

Valentina is now honing her skills to provide just such care to women. She has had the opportunity to practice high-quality, lifesaving skills in a fully equipped skills laboratory at her school in Accra. The skills lab, supported by a Jhpiego program, allows for the demonstration of clinical procedures. This lab lets students role play and simulate the provision of care. The school also offers electronic and mobile phone-based learning so Valentina can easily strengthen her skills by accessing learning materials on a smartphone or laptop.

It is estimated that in Ghana each year more than 3,000 women die in childbirth and 30,000 newborn babies die; most of these are preventable deaths. Improving access to high-quality maternal and newborn care is a national priority. However, the percentage of women who have a skilled attendant during childbirth is uneven throughout the country.

According to Valentina, disrespect and abuse during labor and delivery are reasons why women choose to deliver at home or with traditional birth attendants instead of in a health facility with a skilled nurse or midwife. She has seen firsthand the attitude of some midwives who do not offer good client care and says, “I want to practice the right thing.”

Valentina is just months away from graduating as a qualified midwife. Her plan is to initially work in a public health center to gain experience, “Then I will open my own maternity home … to enable me to offer better customer care [and] respectful maternity services to encourage more women in these communities to report to health facilities.”

Valentina is working to make her dreams a reality and to give the women of Ghana the high-quality health services they need and deserve.