“When I was in school, my neighbour was a midwife, supporting childbearing women and their babies in the antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum periods. She was a role model for me and at that time I decided to become a midwife. I also wanted to become a nurse. My family is very happy about my decision because I am playing a vital role in my family and society despite many challenges for girls and women. My elder sister is also a midwife and my younger sister is a nurse.”
Between 2012 and 2019, Nazia spent most of her time studying. She began with three years at the Aga Khan University (AKU) School of Nursing and Midwifery to learn nursing. Next, she specialised in cardiology before training as a midwife. After this she took a BSc in Nursing at AKU, followed by a BA from Karachi University. “During my studies I faced lots of challenges because I belonged to a lower-income family and had studied in a very small school. Initially it was very difficult for me and then I began to cope with my studies.” She is now a member of the Afghanistan Midwives and Nurses Associations, helping develop learning material, standards and policies. She hopes to gain a Masters degree in nursing from AKU.
“When I was working as a midwife I used to see 40 to 50 patients per day in the DK-German Medical Center in Kabul. We were teaching them about birth spacing, antenatal and postnatal care and also treating infertility cases. The most interesting part of my job was listening to the stories of the women about their experience of pregnancy and health practices.
“The social norm in Afghanistan is that people put their family’s interests before their own, especially when it comes to girls and women. This means that family responsibilities tend to hold a greater importance than the personal needs or health of a woman, leading to child marriage, exchange marriage [where two families exchange daughters for marriage] and early pregnancy. It directly affects the health of a woman.
“Some families do not allow the women to go to the doctor for antenatal care because they do not allow their women to expose their body parts for the examination.
“Many also believe that feeding the neonate with dates and honey is good.”