Mama na Mtoto is thrilled to have staff members Hannah Mercader and Ashley Anderson honoured as two of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s (ACGC) 2019 Top 30 under 30.
Every year, the ACGC recognizes young leaders in the province that are working towards a just and sustainable world. This year’s theme aligned with the International Development Week 2019 focus on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5: Together for Gender Equality.
Through working with Mama na Mtoto, a global maternal newborn and child health (MNCH) partnership, Anderson and Mercader have and continue to challenge the impact of gender inequality on health outcomes.
As a project coordinator at Mama na Mtoto, Mercader leads research and evaluation initiatives based in East Africa. These include conducting qualitative research to better understand the barriers and influencers that affect how pregnant women and mothers access proper health care.
“[O]ne interesting finding from our research is that many health facilities give preferential treatment to women who are accompanied by their husbands in an effort to encourage male involvement. While this is a well-intentioned rule, it inadvertently isolates single mothers, particularly pregnant adolescent girls,” says Mercader. Such findings help to inform the project’s planning and implementation activities.
Mercader has been interested in improving the health of vulnerable populations since she was young and has worked in Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. She holds a Master of Public Health specializing in Global Health from the University of Alberta and a Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Calgary. Having led student organizations focused on international development and health throughout her academic career, including the Global Health Youth Champions Network that includes high-school and university students, she is sought after as a mentor to other youth and globally-minded students.
“When youth have strong male and female role models practicing gender equity it can help ensure that the SDGs are sustained through many generations,” says Mercader.
Anderson started as an intern with Mama na Mtoto under the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program. Placed in Tanzania for four months, she worked with the local field staff to document and share their work on improving health systems and the experiences of rural women in accessing MNCH services. Now as a project officer, she engages Canadians on global health, gender and equity issues through social media, storytelling and community events.
“Gender equity is one of the strongest social determinants of health, and the promotion of gender equity is intertwined in all that we do,” says Anderson.
Gender equality and equity has been a long-term passion for Anderson. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Communications minor and has studied in Sweden, Singapore and Tanzania. Throughout her undergrad, she sought after courses with a gender and equity focus and mentored young girls in small group meetings aimed at building self-esteem, self-awareness and self-confidence.
“I want to see a world where access to quality education and healthcare is not determined by gender, race, location or other social determinants,” says Anderson.
Both Mercader and Anderson believe in the potential of small, mindful actions in creating big impact towards gender equality. “Become and be aware of how gender inequality manifests itself in your own circles and your own experiences,” says Anderson. Anybody can be a change-maker, notes Mercader— “We are all already change-makers through our daily interactions with others. The key is to be mindful of how to make the small moments count.”
Congratulations to Hannah Mercader and Ashley Anderson on their achievement!