A portrait of ‘Mama Daktari’

A portrait of ‘Mama Daktari’

A portrait of ‘Mama Daktari’

[guest post by Sylvia Migani]


In 2012 Marleen Temmerman has joined the WHO as director of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, after being the head of the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) since 1994.

Her career started in Kenya, where she spent several years serving as obstetrician and gynaecologist as well as researching on HIV/AIDS and maternal health, experience described in her latest book titled “Mama Daktari” (“madam doctor”, in Swahili), which is the nickname that has been given to her.

Always and fiercely advocating women’s rights, through her work in international organizations as well as in European institutions, she is concerned about their sexual and reproductive rights, always aiming to improve the maternal and child health and eradicating  harmful practices like female genital mutilation.

 Maternal and child health is the focus of the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, aiming to reduce under five mortality rate and to improve the maternal health. Maternal deaths have declined from 543.000 in 1990 to 287.000 in 2010 (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and WB 2012), while between 1990 and 2011 infant mortality rate has decreased from 61 deaths per 1000 live births to 37 deaths per 1000 live births (WHO data).

These are just some figures, but beyond the figures are the people. Researching on these topics and working as a medical practitioner, Marleen Temmerman has taken every chance to make people’s voices heard. She reported several stories of women and men from all over the world, about sex and marriage, infertility and sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution and stigmas related with traditional beliefs.

Stories of suffering, but also stories of hope.

Let’s join TEDxGhent to hear the inspiring speech of Marleen Temmerman, to find out about the progress on health issues by women, and how a woman’s right to control her own fertility and have access to information about family planning can play a pivotal role in this evolution.


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