FROM November 3rd, 2016
FROM May 3rd, 2016
As Founder-President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Mrs Saraki is a Nigerian philanthropist with two decades of advocacy covering reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; ending gender-based violence; education; and socio-economic empowerment. Mrs Saraki demonstrated leadership on the UN Secretary General’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative, developed global best-practice models for health and accountability, and will be leading efforts to implement the post-2015 agenda across sub-Saharan Africa. Mrs Saraki is the Newborn Champion for Save the Children Nigeria, Grand Patron of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria, and Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives.
She is married to Nigeria’s Senate-President, His Excellency Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
FROM May 8th, 2014
Why did you start the Wellbeing Foundation (WBF)?
I started off in the retail sector with a chain of children’s shops and ventures in property. But after I got married, I had a very unfortunate experience during childbirth. A parent is not supposed to bury their child. I didn’t have any closure and I was angry because I felt, strongly, that this is a death that could easily have been prevented.
It was a defining moment because I realised that our public health infrastructure really wasn’t what it should be. I became interested in health from a rights perspective and started WBF. The question was how to make things better for pregnant women so that they and their babies can survive childbirth.
What are the rates of maternal mortality in Nigeria?
When I first approached the federal ministry of health and offered to join forces with them to start gathering data on maternal mortality, what we found was shocking. The figures were saying that this is something that should be declared a national emergency. Today, despite improvements, we have about 40,000 preventable maternity deaths (pdf).
As we looked for solutions we also focused on causes, and the issue of child brides became quite a significant factor in the 19 northern states, and in the southeast. A child is not a woman and is not in the best position to give birth. Giving birth when the body is not fully developed, compounded by lack of medical facilities, puts our girls at risk of death.
How is WBF addressing the issue?
We work through a coalition of women’s groups and societies. We focus on strategies such as awareness building, advocacy and education. I believe that education is central to development. Women who are educated will ensure that their children are educated, receive healthcare and have good nutrition. So we have a programme that funds school buildings and distributes the learning material packs.
We have also developed tools like ‘Mamakits’, which we distribute to midwives to ensure they have what they need to increase the chances of a safe delivery. And an integrated maternal, new-born and child health record – which I consider a hand-held bill of rights. If you know the quality of care you are supposed to be getting when you are pregnant, you can raise an alarm when you are not getting that care.
What sort of impact do religious conflicts and threats from militants like Boko Haram have on your work?
The recent bombings and kidnaps create an atmosphere of fear. We fight for girls to have access to education without that fear, now over 200 school girls have been snatched from their families. A few days ago I hosted a panel with three young girls from the north, who could have easily been the girls that were abducted. As they spoke about their impressive aspirations it highlighted just how much is at stake.
These conflicts should not prevent us from doing what we need to do. They should inspire us to rise. I recently signed my support to the Girl Declaration which is going to be a movement of millions from all around the world working to ensure that girls are safe, are nurtured and can thrive and contribute to economic development and their own growth.
What is WBF’s greatest challenge?
One of the hurdles we are constantly coming up against is achieving scale on effective local initiatives. It can seem impossible without political will, but I never see a challenge as something to lie down and hide behind or to use as an excuse – the lesson maybe that we need to look more to the private sector.
What do you consider to be the organisation’s greatest achievement?
I could count my achievements by the number of health kits or education packs we distribute, but for me what really matters is the lives that are actually saved.
The World Bank and WHO reports show that maternal mortality rates have dropped by about 20% in Nigeria. We are still far off, we still rank within the top 10 highest rates in the world, but the drop is a massive achievement.
What is your vision for WBF?
My vision is to continue to help people and to become a national, home-grown grant making organisation. I also see us becoming a bridging point for those who wish to be on the frontline and don’t know how to get there, because our frontline is huge – it is our woman and our children. The work in progress is how to translate that vision and make it work and sustainable.
FROM September 21st, 2011
Date: 21 SEPTEMBER 2011 12:00 –2:00 p.m.
Private sector luncheon>br> Venue: Harvard Club of New York
Audience: 40 participants. The meeting will convene private sector leaders from various business sectors and other commitment-makers to Every Woman, Every Child.
Hosts: Merck, GE Healthcare, Intel, Wellbeing Foundation of Nigeria, Government of Norway (NORAD), Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Children’s Health, United Nations Foundation.
The meeting aligns with the launch of the Report “Innovating for Women and Children”, as part of the Global Campaign on Health MDGs. It aims to:
12:05 – 12:10 Welcome and introductions (Ted Turner, United Nations Foundation-TBC)
12:10 – 12:15 “Every Woman, Every Child” overview (Bob Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy and Planning-TBC)
12:20 – 12:40 Host Remarks and Presentation (3-5 Minutes each)
Commitments to health and the diversity of private sector engagement to improve women’s and children’s health..
Merck Signature Initiative on Maternal Mortality (Naveen Rao, Lead Signature Initiative, Merck)
GE Healthcare (Jay Ireland, CEO GE Africa)
Intel Corporation (Mike Gann, Intel World Ahead Program)
Mobilizing a country’s private sector: Nigeria (Toyin Saraki, President, Wellbeing Foundation)
12:40 – 13:20 Dialogue on partnerships, innovations and sustainable business models.
Table-level dialogue focusing on improving capacities to address health challenges, fostering sustainable development, and promoting institutional change through new innovations and partnerships.
The five tables in the room will have the following leads:
13:20 – 13:50 Reports Back and Discussion
13:50 – 2:00 Opportunities Going Forward(Carole Presern, Director PMNCH)