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What’s So Rosy about Garden City?

The walls. They’re the first thing you notice when you arrive at Garden City University College, a small school in Kumasi, Ghana. They’re painted a pale mauve. During the magic hour, when the sun’s low and red, the building and everyone in it glows.

The women who lead it. We’d come to document the school’s progress toward its goal of graduating more health workers, and we had hours of interviews lined up. Garden City’s leaders are stepping up to help address the country’s shortage of health workers.

Ghana has fewer than half the minimum number of doctors, nurses, and midwives recommended by the World Health Organization to provide adequate access to health care.So school leaders are using CapacityPlus tools to improve school management and identify cost-effective ways to educate more health workers. And we couldn’t help but notice that many of those leaders we met—from the new acting president to the dean of students—were powerful women who #MakeItHappen.

They told us that in less than two years the school had increased student applicants and doubled enrollment, improved the way they recruit and retain high-quality faculty, and implemented a new faculty and student tracking system to better monitor students’ academic progress and clinical training.

The school also gained accreditation for three new bachelor of science programs to train midwives, lab technicians, and medical assistants—all types of health workers in short supply in Ghana.

The students. Especially the students. We talked with several of the new midwives-in-training. It’s hard not to be moved and humbled when you meet a young woman (all the midwifery students we met were women) and hear her plans for changing her country and improving lives.

One student named Ave Maria recounted how she’d already used her skills to help a pregnant woman who was badly injured in a car accident. She also told us how she wants to reduce the number of babies born with preventable conditions in her community, and how after she completes her national service and pursues her master’s degree, she plans to open her own maternity clinic to save more moms and babies.

Her classmate, Evelyn, decided to become a midwife because she wants to save two people at the same time—the mother and the child—and reduce her country’s high maternal mortality rates.

A sobering fact: Women in Ghana have a 1 in 68 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. Another: Only 54% of births are assisted by skilled health workers.

The future for Ghanaian women. The midwifery program started in 2014, enrolling 65 students in the first year. When Ave Maria, Evelyn, and the others become midwives, together they will provide care for 7,000 more women every week (based on the estimate that a public health midwife in Ghana provides services for 119 clients each week). And it’s not just safe maternity care they will provide. They’ll help reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV and counsel mothers about family planning. In 2009, only about one-fourth of HIV-positive Ghanaian women and a fifth of their babies received antiretroviral therapy to prevent new infections. Midwives can help change that. They can also address Ghana’s 35% unmet need for family planning. Meeting the contraceptive needs of women and their families will help reduce unintended pregnancies and therefore also reduce maternal deaths.

The pounding. Ever try conducting interviews in a construction zone? It’s challenging. But with a Zoom mic and some patience, we managed. Plus, the constant banging was yet another sign of positive change for women in Ghana. The school was in the midst of building a new dormitory to house all those new students who will go on to provide essential health care in Garden City.

Check out our photo gallery and watch a video with Ave Maria and Evelyn (we hope you’ll appreciate the background noise as much as we did.).

On International Women’s Day, join us in applauding these school leaders and students at Garden City University College who are making women’s health happen. Here’s a sample tweet:

From school leaders to #midwifery students, these women in #Ghana are making women’s health happen. #MakeItHappen

Learn more:

Interviews conducted by Carol Bales and Gracey Vaughn. Photo by Gracey Vaughn for CapacityPlus and IntraHealth International (students at Garden City University College).

CapacityPlus is a global project funded by the US Agency for International Development and led by IntraHealth International.