What drew you to working with Médecins Sans Frontières?
Having crewed sailboats and taught cardio workouts in the 1980s and 90s, I discovered the midwifery profession through the birth of my two daughters in the late 90s. I began study to become a midwife when we moved to the UK as a family. I had met a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor in my early travels and was inspired to join an organisation that provides impartial and independent healthcare based on need. Three decades later, in 2018 – with my children older and Médecins Sans Frontières in need of midwives – the timing was right for me to realise that intention.
You’ve just returned from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Could you describe the situation for Rohingya women who have sought safety there?
Women everywhere have specific healthcare needs, whether this is access to contraception, a safe place to deliver their baby, or support in the wake of sexual violence. In Cox’s Bazar, vulnerabilities are exacerbated by being Rohingya, female, displaced and stateless. Young or old, Rohingya women face numerous challenges every day, irrespective of their marital, social or economic status. They must cope with living in the crowded conditions of the refugee camps, in temporary bamboo and tarpaulin shelters that offer little protection from seasonal flooding and landslides. Their perceived low status as women places them at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence; women often bear the violent brunt of men’s inability to control their financial and environmental circumstances.