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Our partners at Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS) recount their latest training and impact in rural Sierra Leone, celebrating the incredible progress made for rural maternal healthcare and the 

 

It had been 10 years since we first arrived in Sierra Leone to do a needs assessment for training birth attendants, and now we were returning to the village of Pellie to celebrate our anniversary with a Jamboree. 150 of the women we had trained over the intervening years were coming together to celebrate their work and their successes and to continue their education.

The logistics were a nightmare. The women were coming from four different areas of the country to one of the most remote villages over one of the worst roads we’ve ever been on. The truck carrying the group coming the farthest broke down on the way. Another group got lost  while of cell phone range. 

Finally, all the women arrived at the final rendezvous point before embarking on the last leg of the journey to Pellie. The truck we had contracted to carry them could not , of course, carry 150 people at one time, so we sent people in shifts. The first group left for Pellie two nights before the Jamboree only to become stranded when the truck got stuck in the mud and standing water at the final bridge. They walked that night to the nearest village, whose people graciously put them up. After that, the remaining women had to be ferried from the bridge to Pellie by smaller vehicles, motorbikes, or on foot. Whew!

All the problems delayed the start of the Jamboree, but finally on Monday afternoon, Dec. 12, the Women of MOMS lined up with their banners, wearing their special outfits for the occasion, and we marched down the main road of the town to the barrie, the public gathering place.  There the Paramount Chief, a representative of the Ministry of Health, all manner of local officials and hundreds of townspeople awaited.

That first afternoon, after much speechifying, ceremonial dancing and a moment of silence for all those who had died, particularly in the Ebola epidemic, the Women of MOMS from each location delivered the skits they had prepared. Skits are one of the primary tools these women use to teach the people of their communities, and they ones they presented at the Jamboree were fantastic!

One group at a time, they demonstrated their knowledge of signs and symptoms of pregnancy, nutrition, breastfeeding, family planning, caring for women in labor and their role as community health workers. Although we visit every cohort we have trained at least yearly for continuing education, the Ebola epidemic had disrupted their lives and relationships with the health clinics, especially in two of the hardest hit locations. So we were impressed with the knowledge they displayed.

And we weren’t the only ones. Mr. Jaiya, from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, was bowled over! Beginning right then, at the Jamboree, and repeatedly over the next two days in several conversations, he told us how impressed he was with their knowledge, with the role they played in their various communities and at the clinics, and with their positive relationships with clinic staff.

“I remember when you first came here,” he whispered to me during the Jamboree. “It wasn’t easy. And now look what you’ve accomplished.”

No, it wasn’t easy when we started. When we began, Sierra Leone had the worst infant and maternal mortality in the world. (Although it made some progress, it is now back in that position after the destruction of Ebola.) The direction we proposed, after that initial needs assessment, was exactly the opposite of the what the government wanted to do to the women called “traditional birth attendants.” We proposed training them to become not just birth attendants, but a bridge between the community and the clinics, teachers and advocates. We said they were respected and dedicated — a resource to be developed.

The government wanted to outlaw the “traditional birth attendants,” and over the next several years debated their role, eventually in 2010, outlawing home births. During that time, we continued to try to adapt to the changing government thinking while also trying to urge them toward training and leveraging these women.

And now, after 10 years, Mr. Jaiya said the Women of MOMS represented the model for the whole country! He also said he could always tell when we had trained in a village because the statistics from the clinic started to change for the better. Wow.  He told us he knew when a woman we trained moved to a new area and began practicing, as mortality improved.  

The next day we met again without all the “dignitaries,” just us women. We got an update from each group about how things were going in their villages and clinics, about problems and successes. And that’s when the second “wow” moment came.

One of the women told us that a few years ago, after a continuing education session about breast self exams and cancer, she visited her adult daughter and shared this information. When she examined her daughter’s breasts, she found a lump. A prompt visit to the doctor revealed that it was, indeed, cancerous. But fortunately the lump was small and had not spread. And three years later, after treatment, she is cancer free.

There’s nothing more humbling that to be part of success stories like that.

 

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The #femartpwr auction aims to raise funds for COHI's 2016 programs in Sierra Leone, Syria Leone, Nepal, Haiti, and the U.S./Texas border. Feminist and women's health-inspired pieces are being generously donated to COHI.

When

Each auction will run from 8–5PM EST.

 

How

Each piece will have open bidding for 90 minutes after its posting, the bids will be monitored in the comments section on Instagram.

Auction Items

Xaurima

Artist: Alicia Smith

Details: 19"x13", photo of relief print, muslin, corn husk and silk (2016)

@aliciadelaspaismaravillas
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BID STARTING AT $50. Alicia Smith is a current MFA Fine Arts Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department whose work focuses on the often forgotten history of the Aztec/Mexican natives whose story can often provide insight into the social and political issues surrounding Native American's today. Xaurima is a name given to Wixaritari baby girls who are born when the corn is ready to harvest.

Gaze in Your Omphalos No.1

Artist: Hanna Washburn

Details: 8"x10", ink on photograph (2015)

@hannawashburn
www.hannawashburn.com
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BID STARTING AT $50. Hanna Washburn is a current MFA Fine Arts Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department whose self-portraits are obscured and enhanced by drawings that abstract the physcial female body. In her work, Gaze she fuses photographic perspective with subjective, artistic rendering.

Iceland

Artist: Alexis Stember Coulter

Details: ​11" x 14" professional fine art print on Kodak Professional Endura Premier Paper with Lustre Coating. Archival value of 100 years.

@afamilygrowsinbrooklyn
www.afamilygrowsinbrooklyn.us/family/
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BID STARTING AT $50. Alexis Stemper Coulter is a wife, mother, and artist living in Brooklyn, NY. She loves nothing more than spending time with families and capturing the wonderful everyday moments in life that pass all too quickly.

Whale Bay, Antarctica No. 3

Artist: Zaria Forman

Details: ​15"x15", Limited edition digital print, 2016

@zarialynn
www.zariaforman.com
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BID STARTING AT $100. Zaria Forman is an established contempoary Brooklyn-based artist whose gorgeous soft pastel drawings address the pressing issues of climate change. Documenting our world's melting glaciers and rising shorelines, Zaria's drawings focus on the beauty we stand to lose.

(Clown): #302-Uptown Clown

Artist: Rina Dweck

Details: 12”x 12”, vinyl print on box frame (2016)

@projectface
www.rinadweck.com
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re-PRODUCTION

Artist: Melanie Reese

Details: 21.5"x18", limited edition digital print (2016)

@melaniereese
www.melreese.com
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Melanie Reese is a 2017 MFA Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department whose paintings explore the complex and and layered history from which our present understanding of women's rights were built. re-PRODUCTION addresses the historical oppression of women and their bodies as baby making machines for the profit of Capitalist societies.

Xaurima

Artist: Alicia Smith

Details: 19"x13", Photo of relief print, muslin, corn husk and silk, 2016

@aliciadelaspaismaravillas

BID STARTING AT $50. Alicia Smith @aliciadelaspaismaravillas is a current MFA Fine Arts Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department who'se work focuses on the often forgotten history of the Aztec/Mexican natives whose story can often provide insight into the social and political issues surrounding Native American's today. Xaurima is a name given to Wixaritari baby girls who are born when the corn is ready to harvest.

Gaze in your omphalos

Artist: Hanna Washburn

Details: 8"x10", Ink on photograph, 2015

@hannawashburn

BID STARTING AT $50. Hanna Washburn @hannawashburn is a current MFA Fine Arts Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department who's self-portraits are obscured and enhanced by drawings that abstract the physcial female body. In her work, Gaze in your omphalos she fuses photographic perspective with subjective, artistic rendering.

(Big lips): #198-Mid Season Crisis

Artist: Rina Dweck

Details: 12"x12", Vinyl print on box frame, 2016

@projectface

BID STARTING AT $50. Rina Dweck @projectface is a current MFA Fine Arts Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art Department whose series Project Face was a 365 days social media performance. Exploring a range of topics relating to Persian definitions of identiy and persona, #198-Mid Season Crisis examines several topics relating to being a woman – what our society demands of us, how it places us, and how media impacts our lives.

Original Watercolor Painting

Artist: Laura Groetzinger

Details: 12"x16", 2016

@pinkandsalt
www.pinkandsalt.com
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BID STARTING AT $50. Laura Groetzinger @pinkandsalt is a designer and painter in New York City. Her work aims to challenge the art world's criticism of stereotypically, hyper-feminine imagery and colors as having no place in fine art. COHI feels Hyper-fem is beautiful and powerful and we want to empower that beauty in this world! This piece is an original watercolor painting.

re-PRODUCTION

Artist: Melanie Reese

Details: 21.5"x18", Limited edition digital print, 2016

@melaniereese

BID STARTING AT $50. Melanie Reese @melaniereese is a 2017 MFA Candidate of SVA's MFA Fine Art department who's paintings explore the complex and and layered history from which our present understanding of women's rights were built. re-PRODUCTION addresses the historical oppression of women and their bodies as baby making machines for the profit of Capitalist societies.

First Baths

Artist: Jenny Tamas

Details: 12x12, Digital photograph print, 2016

@gypsynspice

BID STARTING AT $50. Jenny Tamas is the lovely mother, wife, and kick-ass woman behind the inspiring images of the @gypsynspice account we all know and love. Through her heartwarming photographs we are able to follow Jenny's journey from loving wife, through the epic journey that is pregnancy, to the rewarding result of motherhood. Jenny's bathtub photographs remind us that pregnant women/women in general need to take care of themselves without guilt; that indulging in the small pleasures of baths is sometimes nothing short of necessary for our mental and physical health; and that if, to quote Jenny, "if I don't take the time to honor myself, my body, then who will?" Let COHI help provide quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn care in time of crisis (like what's happening in Aleppo!) and donate.

Untitled

Artist: Jessi Chapes

Details:

@jessichapes
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BID STARTING AT $50. Jessi is a 28 year old artist and mother of one who grew up in Illinois. Art, for her, has always been a joyful means of self expression and a means of constant self discovery. Each piece belongs to a series of works that explores themes of female strength and courage.

Un-Wedgable and Gnarled Oke

Artist: Mark Soutter

Details: 7"x8" , Pyrography on wood

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BID STARTING AT $50. Mark Soutter is a trained chemist and loves to "science the shit outta art." His work explores fundamental properties of electricity, combustion and natural materials. He's fascinated by patterns found across multiple disparate natural phenomena.