At the age of seven, Vera Kamtukule, now chief executive officer (CEO) of Malawi Scotland Partnership (Masp) moved to Zingwangwa Township.
With her father, now deceased, working for Blantyre City Council (BCC), and her mother working for Lonhro that time, Vera and her siblings spent the greater part of the day with the a nanny or playing with friends.
She recalls that one day her friend took her to Zingwangwa Health Centre—about two kilometres from where they lived. The clinic provided free porridge to children their age.
“What we did not know was that these children had to be malnourished or suffering from kwashiorkor or marasmus. We got to the clinic and we were put on the line by a health worker, given cups and spoons and we received the porridge. It was porridge made from maize flour mixed with groundnut flour [phala la mgaiwa lotsira nsinjiro],” Kamtukule recounts.
She went back home and never mentioned it to the nanny or her parents. The trend went on for almost a week, until her parents found out, earning her a beating from her mother. But she has never forgotten the taste of that porridge.
And this prompted her to participate in Nation Publications Limited’s (NPL) sleepover initiative at Zingwangwa Health Centre last Friday, to give back to the clinic.
“I appeal to all well-wishers to support me and others in this noble cause so that hospital equipment can be acquired for the chosen clinics and contribute towards improved maternal health in Malawi,” she said.
Kamtukule is among top women executives, including the CEO for NPL Mbumba Banda who, under the initiative, will participate in sleepovers planned for Zingwangwa Health Centre, Limbe Health Centre and Ndirande Health Centre on different dates.
The initiative is aimed at raising funds for the 2017 Mothers’ Fun Run, a project supporting safe motherhood.
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) communications manager Clara Mwafulirwa is another participant.
As a mother who has gone through labour, she felt for other mothers and would like to see a situation where all mothers enjoy their birth giving experiences no matter where they are.
“I imagined myself as a pregnant mother sleeping on the floor and having no privacy. Women face a lot of problems in health centres and this saddened me. In Blantyre alone, an average of 48 mothers, as per United nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2016 data findings, die while giving birth. So, I said I will set up time to help raise awareness on the plight of mothers by participating in the sleepover,” said Mwafulirwa.
She also observed that government alone cannot do everything, which begs the need for everyone to join hands and make things better.
NPL marketing manager Albert Banda said ‘sleepover’ is an international fundraising concept that allows directors, CEOs, top managers, members of Parliament and entrepreneurs to connect on a personal level for a common purpose.
“This sleepover has been designed for top female executives to appreciate challenges and harsh realities our mothers face in public hospitals. Through the sleepover, we aim at raising awareness of these challenges to the larger audience and the corporate world, while at the same time appealing for funds,” said Banda.
He said besides making monetary contributions for buying medical equipment, the sleepover would afford the female executives an opportunity to make a difference by raising awareness of the challenging realities mothers go through in their child-bearing process. n