Telling the Story of Maternal Health

Lodz Joseph, Haiti Adolescent Girls Network Coordinator

In the documentary film Sister, Canadian director Brenda Davis explores the lives of three health workers living around the globe. She takes the viewer from Cambodia to Ethiopia to Haiti to provide insights into the maternal health situation of each country.

The health care systems of these countries face severe challenges, and it is the women and their potential offspring who suffer most. The number of women who die while giving birth in Haiti is alarming. According to UNFPA, "With 1 in 44 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth, Haiti is the most dangerous place to give birth in the Western Hemisphere."

As the child of Haitian parents, statistics like these were discussed frequently in our home. Through my family, I came to understand the implications of maternal mortality rates. My cousin lost his mother right after she gave him life. For me, Sister isn't simply a film to raise awareness; it is a film to raise women's voices and tell our stories.

We meet traditional health worker Madam Bwa in the Shada neighborhood of Cap-Haitian, Haiti. Without ever having received any medical training, Madam Bwa has delivered more than 12,000 babies in 53 years. People in Shada live in overpopulated, cramped spaces, and many parents are so poor that they and their children go hungry. Madam Bwa works in an extremely challenging situation, yet she and her clients do the best with what they have.

At one point, Madam Bwa tells the filmmaker that if she were the president of Haiti, she would invest in women. Her words echo a popular sentiment among international development leaders and show the wisdom of a woman who has played a vital role in the health of her community for more than half a century. I came away from Sister proud of and inspired by the dedication of Madam Bwa, and more determined to do my part to keep the health of the most vulnerable women a priority in Haiti.


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