My name is Jacqueline Mwase and I am 30 years old. I come from Chiudzira, Malawi and I am a member of the Lhomwe tribe.
I recently gave birth to a baby girl I have named Jacinta. In Lhomwe culture, motherhood is supposed to be a good experience where the mother is well taken care of and has access to good facilities and care. I was greatly assisted by the nurse midwife on duty and she did a very good job.
After the delivery of the baby, I took a bath in the labor ward where there was a clean bathroom and toilet available. However, when I got to the postnatal ward, I found the toilets in a bad state: they cannot be flushed, and it was not clean in there. We were washing our hands with only the water that is available, because there was no hand soap to use. I was not able to clean myself at the postnatal ward toilets at all after my delivery.
Because the toilets are blocked, you could not practice proper at all. The toilets had been washed, but because the facility did not have the necessary detergents and equipment for cleaning up, they looked and felt dirty. The bathrooms and toilets were small, so with the frequent traffic the cleanliness was not maintained.
Women need good bathrooms and toilets, with soap to ensure we are killing germs on our hands because a mother is supposed to be clean. The government should have ensured good bathrooms and toilets were available for mothers to use when I gave birth, but I am so happy that, because of White Ribbon Alliance efforts, more women than ever before will be able to experience a clean and safe birth experience in my country.
In Malawi and across the world, women just like me are tired of giving birth in a health center only to have to walk over filthy pathways to use dirty toilets that are a long walk from the maternity ward. Women are done waiting patiently for change – we are agitating for good water and sanitation facilities in hospitals, which White Ribbon Alliance is making possible for women and girls across Malawi.
As a result of What Women Want advocacy efforts, the Malawi Ministry of Health and Population, Directorate of Quality Management, incorporated women’s demands from White Ribbon Alliance Malawi’s What Women Want survey campaign, including the top request for access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, into the Quality of Care Assessment toolkit for health facility monitoring.
Because of this work by White Ribbon Alliance, health centers must now show they have clean and functional toilets to be considered a Quality of Care-rated facility, which will force hospitals across Malawi to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene is part of every woman’s birth experience in the future.