As a self-described tomboy, Joy Kafuka stood out from her classmates in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
“I loved to play outside, I didn’t have much interest in dolls, and I was fascinated by how things work,” Joy says.
Joy, now a health coach and founder of the Designed Life Institute, is working with young mothers to provide antenatal classes and resources.
“I’ve found through my work that postpartum depression is real, but that it can be mitigated if mothers and their partners are well-informed,” Joy says.
A 2018 study in the South African Journal of Psychiatry found that women of a lower socioeconomic status in Zimbabwe were more likely to suffer from postpartum depression, resulting in the compromised health of newborns.
But, in keeping with Joy’s work, the same study found that antenatal and postnatal doctor’s visits afford women the opportunity to recognize, screen for, and respond to these depressive symptoms.
“One challenge we faced is that new mothers don’t have the time to take antenatal classes,” Joy says. “So we decided to put our classes online.”
“As new parents, it’s important to have as much information as possible about pregnancy, labour, and birth,” Joy says.
“Midwives are instrumental in this, teaching mothers not only how to handle and nurse their babies, but also what to expect as new mothers — services doctors can be too busy to provide.”
To others interested in women’s health and in educating their peers about midwifery, Joy advises them to embrace a collaborative, open-ended approach.
“It’s important to stay humble and to know when to ask for help. Venturing out on your own can be an uphill battle,” she says.
“You also have to learn to adapt. Things won’t always go your way and you need to be able to pivot quickly.”
Joy’s commitment to helping young mothers underlies the whole of her work and comes through in her determination to share health information more broadly.
“I want to be remembered as someone who provided pregnant women in Zimbabwe with access to affordable, convenient antenatal care,” Joy says.
Equipped with these services, Joy explains, young mothers can focus on caring for their newborns and on pursuing their dreams.
“That’s what a leader is. It’s a person who inspires others to dream.”