Zainab Bala, Nigeria
More than 50,000 women die from childbirth per year in Nigeria, according to the UN. But experts say 95% of those deaths are preventable.
To shine a light on their stories, Nigerian broadcast journalist Zainab Bala approached the IWMF with a documentary idea that would examine the Nigerian government’s response to maternal mortality, drawing upon interviews with the Ministry of Health, NGOs, doctors, midwives and pregnant women in Kano, Abuja and Niger state.
In a 43-minute documentary for Trust TV, Zainab examined the issue of maternal mortality from three angles: medical negligence, poverty and cultural practices related to motherhood.
“Maternal and child healthcare is critical to the development of any nation, prompting its inclusion in the [UN’s] Sustainable Development Goals,” Zainab said. But “Nigeria cannot lay claim to development when its infant and maternal mortality rate is on the increase.”
Zainab’s documentary immediately struck a nerve.
“On the 7th of January, which is the day the piece aired on Trust Television at about 11:02 am, the mood in my newsroom was a sober one,” she recounted. “A lot of my colleagues were taken away by the fact that we still had such situations in Nigeria, and we hardly get to hear or see stories like this. It made sense to them that there was no better person to tell such stories other than women themselves.”
Her documentary became an immediate conversation starter amongst Nigerian outlets, sparking critical discussions about maternal health in English and Hausa. After Zainab’s interview of a medical negligence victim appeared on TV, the victim decided to file suit against the hospital that allegedly mistreated her.
“I have always wanted to do this story, but because I couldn’t access funding, it stalled for a very long time. The IWMF gave me the opportunity to make this project a reality. It brought me closer to the people, to be able to see their stories through their eyes from places that rarely make it to the news.”