A Mile in Her Shoes

A woman in labour being carried to the nearest health facility in the Amhara region in Ethiopia. This photo was taken in May 2013.

A woman in labour being carried to the nearest health facility in the Amhara region in Ethiopia. This photo was taken in May 2013.

Since September, each member of the SafeHands team has taken up a physical challenge to raise awareness about the importance of maternity care for women worldwide. In that time, we each pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zones to bring attention to the women who still lack this crucial access. 

Millions of women around the world must travel many miles to access health facilities during childbirth, sometimes even being carried by others in their village to get there. These miles can be life threatening. If complications arise, the distance between a woman and a health facility could determine whether she and her child survive. Just being close to somewhere – anywhere – that has the resources, knowledge, and skills to manage these situations can make all the difference. That’s why we make films to train service providers and midwives internationally. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported on us on these challenges and donated to our cause. We are so grateful for all your support – it kept us going when the going got tough. You helped us go the distance so women around the world don’t have to.

If you would like to contribute to our efforts, you can donate here.

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“Swimming a mile in Hyde Park’s Swim Serpentine Event was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. As a former lifeguard, I know the importance of the ‘Buddy’ system and Debbie Manners, Chair of the SafeHands Board of Trustees, was my perfect buddy.  In spite of losing sight of each other from the beginning, it was good to know that she was there in spirit among the hundreds of swimmers.  My training in the open water of Lake Huron and the Mediterranean did not prepare me for the murky depths of the Serpentine.  This was a tough personal challenge and a reminder of what is needed to go the extra mile and why I was doing it - for the young girls, women, and men we serve.” 

- Founder Director, Nancy Durrell McKenna 

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“Tackling 55 miles from London to Windsor via the lovely (or not so lovely) hills of Surrey was daunting to say the least. Heading to the start line my nerves were definitely wavering, but knowing I was doing it for more than me – and with my partner, James, tapping in to my competitive nature – I started to turn the pedals. Of all the days for summer to turn to fall, London couldn’t have picked a worse one, and so we cycled through wind, and rain, and more wind, and more rain. I was freezing and my legs were killing me, but every time the hills seemed too much I returned to the thought of girls like Shontel who can’t afford menstrual products or girls like Wube-Enat, who are married too young. I remember thinking ‘if me getting up this hill can make those situations better, then there’s no way I’m not getting there.’ That thought kept the wheels spinning.” 

- Paige Rogers, Communication and Production Adviser 

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“The first sight of Himalayan peaks battling cloud cover for supremacy conjured thoughts of all those who reached for their summit with success and failure. ‘What have I gotten myself into,’ I quietly thought. That was day 1 of the 14 day trek that would be my most physically demanding adventure to date – a loop that would take me up to Mount Everest Base Camp. By day 8 we were at 5000 metres and still climbing. With every strained breath my muscles screamed in protest as our group snaked its way over one ridge after another. Those were the moments when I put my pain in context and thought, ‘this challenge will end, this day will pass, but the struggle for sexual and reproductive healthcare for most women in these mountains and elsewhere is life-long'. Then, I looked around at the landscape enveloping me, took a deep breath, and carried on.” 

- Shay Howard, Intern 

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“Having sprained my ankle in late summer during my 20 week training, the start line of the Richmond Half Marathon seemed a distant reality. On the morning of the race, I knew I had to trust the training I’d managed to put in around my injury, and that by just being there I’d won half the battle already. Running along the Thames Path in West London, a path I knew well by now, I had little time to appreciate the beauty of the course. Instead, I was consumed with keeping my heart rate and breathing in check. In these moments, I often recalled the countless fierce and strong women I have met throughout my life– somehow supporting me along the way in spirit. That was enough to keep me pushing, and get me over the finish line faster than I ever had before.” 

Erica Belanger, Assistant Director - Development