Kamalini and her team are currently working with obstetricians in PNG to evaluate maternal and newborn care training they are providing to remote area health workers. Early results suggest this low-cost, practical training has allowed thousands more women to give birth safely.

Speaking up

“When facts are ignored you need to speak up for change.”  Kamalini Lokuge – doctor, humanitarian, researcher, activist. Liz Drummond reports.

Associate Professor Kamalini Lokuge arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, when she was 26 years old, and the Taliban had just overthrown the government. Having recently qualified as a doctor, she had joined Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to expand her horizons beyond the medical centres of Canberra.

“I was treating people with infectious diseases, malnutrition, mine injuries, and a host of other preventable conditions. It was frustrating because so many of these problems were avoidable if people had decent living conditions and access to healthcare,” says Kamalini.

It wasn’t just illnesses that Kamalini had to battle but also societal customs, in this case, an ingrained patriarchal society.

“Not allowing female doctors to practise medicine meant that women simply didn’t go to clinics. I remember one woman only having the courage to seek help when I began working there. This meant that by the time she received care, her breast cancer had eaten into her chest wall,” says Kamalini.