Mother of 3 stresses attitude change about women

Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese. Submitted photo.

This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the Tuesday, June 28, issue of The Chautauquan Daily

Emma Morehart | Staff Writer

Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese’s kids are global children.

They each know what it feels like to go to an international school, be the only kid in class who speaks English and spend only four months of the year in their hometown of Ontario, Canada.

This is because for the other eight months of the year, their mom teaches Ugandan leaders about maternal mortality and trains them to change the way their neighborhoods treat maternal and child health.

At 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Froese will continue the Interfaith Lecture Series with “Am I My Sister’s Keeper: Addressing Maternal Mortality in the 21st Century.”

The theme remains the same: Cases of maternal deaths are numerous but preventable with the implementation of basic care in developing countries.

But Froese’s approach is different from that of Mark Dybul, co-director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, who presented Monday’s Interfaith Lecture.

Dybul promotes the allocation of resources to these countries, and Froese focuses on the attitudes toward women and families.

“There’s a place for aid, but really there’s very little place until people’s attitudes change,” Froese said. “The idea is to train (Ugandan leaders) who will then go into their own culture and try to bring about change.”

In 2005, Froese founded Save the Mothers International, the public health leadership program through which she and others train Ugandan leaders. She is also the technical expert for Saving Mothers and Newborns, a program through the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. While living in Canada, Froese works as an obstetrician.

Like Dybul, Froese advocates for basic care. Approximately 15 women die each year from childbirth in Froese’s home country of Canada, but 6,000 women die each year from the same complications in Uganda. This, Froese said, is the attitude chasm between countries.

“We just take it for granted,” Froese said. “In the states, you go in and you decide, ‘Do I want a blue room or a pink room?’ In Uganda, it’s a battle, and some people come home alive from the battle and some people don’t.”

In a guest column for the National Post, Froese calls the situation “unequivocally the most under-reported story of our time.”

Many of the solutions to health problems are a lack of resources, like access to electricity, medicine and sterile surgical equipment.

In her column, Froese said she witnessed the heart of the problem at a funeral she attended in Uganda; pallbearers were cautious about how close to the other women they brought a woman’s casket.

Froese’s job is demanding, but she said the best part is when she sees East African leaders change their perspectives and realize how important mothers are.

“We as citizens of this country have demanded it, versus in East Africa it’s, ‘Well, that was God’s will for that to happen,’ but it isn’t God’s will for that to happen,” Froese said.

Froese said her faith keeps her going, and she has called on her favorite Bible verse, Psalm 46:1, many times: “God is my refuge and strength.”

“It’s not us doing it ourselves,” Froese said. “It’s recognizing God’s protection on your life, and the encouragement that he’s there with you.”

As a child, Froese grew up surrounded by diversity and attended a church that taught that helping others, no matter their religion, was simply what it meant to be a good person and a Christian. Froese’s children are now learning the same lessons in diversity.

“It definitely has its challenges,” Froese said. “We do our best to make sure the kids have fun. That takes a lot of energy, but I don’t ever want my kids to say, ‘I wish my parents hadn’t done that.’”