Sarah Brown praises role of Scots in helping Malawi's mothers

Global health and education campaigner Sarah Brown has praised the role Scotland has played in reducing the numbers of women dying in pregnancy and during childbirth.

Women with their babies in Lilongwe, Malawi, where many Scots have worked as volunteers. Picture: Getty Images

Speaking at an Edinburgh Festival event to launch the B!RTH project, in which science and the arts unite to shine a light on reproductive rights and birth inequalities, Brown, pictured, spoke of Scotland’s relationship with Malawi and the “compassion” shown to expectant mothers there.

The project includes four plays being performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. One, CHOICES, by Stacey Gregg, explores the impact of society on the choices women have concerning their fertility.

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There are also plays by women from countries including Syria, India, Kenya and China.

Brown set up the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory with her husband Gordon, the former Prime Minister, in memory of their first child, who was born at 33 weeks and died after 10 days in 2002.

She said: “I think this project with B!RTH has stories from India and Syria but it also has stories from the UK – looking at what those different challenges are and I think what’s come up in the play about the UK are the choices that people have and also the knowledge they have.

“I don’t think anyone in the UK feels they can’t access our amazing NHS but they will want to know that they have the information and have the opportunity to make choices.

“There’s a different part to this, which is when you look at 300,000 women dying every year in pregnancy and childbirth, that was nearly double 10 years ago. A very concerted campaign has helped drive that number downwards.”

The project is led through a collaboration between the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health.

Brown added: “I remember talking in Glasgow at an international midwives’ conference. It was a tremendous day and you felt huge support from people in Scotland. People in Scotland also have the relationship with Malawi. Lots of people have contributed there, volunteered there and have a sense of that country and its health challenges, particularly for women.

“There’s a lot that can be done from people in Scotland wanting to contribute.

“It doesn’t just have to be hands-on volunteers.”