Kiribati Pilot Project
A project led by Australian woman Wendy Flahive, has contributed to saving the lives of women, girls and their babies in Kiribati, an island country in the central Pacific ocean. Wendy brought together The Kiribati Uniting Church and the Bairnsdale and Johnsonville Uniting Churches in Australia, to distribute 200 birthing kits to women in Kiribati.
The pilot project grew from a grassroots approach to community development following a long term relationship between the organisations. As well as the distribution of 200 kits, 12 local Kiribati women were trained in public speaking skills. The transformative training “Speak with Impact”, provided the women with an opportunity to learn how to speak up and communicate effectively. Some had never done public speaking before and during the final session, it was impressive to see the women speak with impact.
The clean birth kits were enthusiastically accepted by local women, with the older women also offered kits as a sign of respect. The local wider community were also positive about the kit distribution, with stories about the use of rusty scissors, the unwashed hands of midwives and used men’s razor blades, all utilised to cut the umbilical cord of the mother and baby. The kits were an opportunity to communicate the dangers of such practices, whilst providing an effective solution.
Those involved in the project said it was valuable in helping to improve the lives of women and girls who become pregnant in the region. A number of volunteers, with a wide reach of influence in their own communities, were also trained to allow for continued distribution of the kits.
With the success of the public speaking training program, it was demonstrated that women in the community could be empowered to use their voices and speak to their communities with authority, spreading news about the availability and usefulness of the birthing kits and how they can enhance clean birth practices for expectant mothers.