It is 2015, the deadline for the WHO Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) to reduce 1990s’ maternal mortality by 75%. On May 23, the world will observe United Nations International Day to end obstetric fistula (a breakdown of the birth canal caused by obstructed labour, leaving women incontinent, infection-prone and ostracized). 2015 is also the deadline for WHO MDG4 to reduce 1990s’ under-five child mortality by two-thirds.
A London-educated obstetrician gynaecologist and fetal medicine specialist, I’ve just returned to South Africa after 14 years. I’m delighted to be joining the WITS Maternal and Fetal Medicine Centre at Morningside Mediclinic in Sandton in Johannesburg and with the extra day I’ll spend every week as an Honorary Consultant at Chris Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.
As a Ugandan-Rwandan, I also return as a sub-Saharan African, fully aware that sub-Saharan Africa made the slowest progress (under 20%) in reducing maternal mortality, that its share of the world’s maternal deaths actually grew from 42% in 1990 to 62% in 2013, and that the projection is it will fail to meet the MDG5 target. I’m also aware that nearly three million women and girls, mostly sub-Saharan African, live with obstetric fistula. Sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest under-five child mortality – 16 times that of developed countries, with more of the 6.6 million child deaths (44% in 2012 compared to 37% in 1990) occurring in the newborn period, clearly linked to a deficit in safe maternity care.
Coming from a UK system, my conscience is heavy. I have worked within clinical governance frameworks where maternity health workers manage obstetric emergencies in multidisciplinary teams, have unrestricted access to updated evidence-based protocols, emergency drugs, blood products and broad spectrum antibiotics and are regularly appraised and supported through enforced emergency drills and continuous professional development. In sub-Saharan Africa, there will be an isolated traditional birth attendant dealing with a post-partum haemorrhage on her own, an unknown expectant mother walking in labor to get help, and I can remember the midwife I met traveling through rural Uganda in 2013 who, when I asked about clinical audit in her unit, responded saying “we are too demoralized by what we face everyday to be dealing with audits”.
However, against the bleak backdrop of sub-Saharan Africa’s high maternal and under-five child mortalities, I’m hopeful. The speed of mobile phone penetration in sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade, faster than anywhere else in the world, points to Africa’s potential. In 2007, mobile subscriptions were already three times faster than in Europe, and in 2009, there were 10 times as many mobile phones as fixed-lines, Kenya being a shining example.
Aside from clear evidence that GDP increases with mobile phone penetration in developing countries, the possibilities are countless.
Relevant to me are the growing number of mHealth projects. Programs and applications that provide real-time intelligence, monitoring and response to disease outbreaks (Nigeria’s ‘EOCs’), provide remote diagnoses (Botswana’s ‘Kgonafalo’), prompt patients to take their medication (South Africa’s ‘Cell-Life’), and prevent drug counterfeiting (Ghana’s ‘mPedigree’). I’m excited by the mHealth projects in maternal health – Nigeria’s ‘mCBS’, South Africa’s ‘MAMA’ and Uganda’s mobile electronic fetal heart monitor ‘Winsenga’.
I owe something to the 800 women and 25,000 children under five who die every year, from preventable causes.
The United Nations has called for accelerated interventions and prioritization in maternal and child health and we await political will, sound strategies and adequate resources. I’ve decided I must take advantage of the great strides Africa is taking in mobile infrastructure and have taken to mHealth, developing a mobile App targeted at safer childbirth as most maternal deaths are due to complications occurring around pregnancy.
Mismanaged labour is also a direct cause of obstetric fistula and newborn deaths. The App will prompt community birth attendants on timely assessments during labour and detect deviation from normality for both mother and fetus. These remote assessments will be electronically visible through a real-time location-based platform for skilled obstetricians and midwives.
Pre-existing medical conditions are another cause of maternal death. The App will therefore in the first instance, perform a risk-assessment to guide on the safest venue for delivery. Patient data and outcomes will be captured into an electronic system to facilitate audit and accuracy of maternal mortality estimates for central monitoring.
I can’t be a bystander as Africa goes through this historic boom in technology while women are evicted from our world simply because they are deprived the safe experience of childbirth. I have to do this because my heart is heavy knowing that with every hour, 33 women die in childbirth from preventable causes. Investing in maternal health will not only improve a mother’s health and her family’s, but will increase women’s numbers in the workforce and promote the economic wellbeing of their countries. I have to do this because women hold up half the sky.
Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’
Fashion is about creating beauty, but its ugly side is the carbon emissions. Designers are now looking to play it safe, even if it means going to dangerous lengths for the sake of greener fashion.
In South Africa, the fashion industry is now starting to do its bit to negate the effects of climate change, with some designers going green, in interesting, creative and even lucrative ways.
Ayanda Nhlapo, a stylist and entrepreneur, is one of them.
She hosted and co-produced her own TV fashion show, Ayanda’s Fashion House, where she explored the work of some of South Africa’s most prolific designers and creatives in the fashion industry. The fashion aesthete says the influence of the industry is far-reaching, and therefore, must be more responsible about the environment and preservation of resources.
“I’ve always had a knack for creating, whether I’m creating from scratch or recreating something that already exists,” says Nhlapo. So, upcycling, or repurposing, is what she is into.
“However, recreating or upcycling has always given me much more excitement and a deeper sense of purpose.
“Upcycling can be challenging but rewarding in the sense that it’s not just about the creativity but it’s more so about contributing to solving the effects of fast fashion on the environment and the economy. It is very important that we preserve our culture, identity and resources,” she says.
Fascinated about culture as well as traditional wear, some of her design ideas are fairly unconventional, such as Zulu sandals made of tyres. Besides clothes, she also designs accessories, such as earrings and key-holders. One of her designs is earrings shaped like water droplets to highlight the importance of saving water, whilst also bringing forth the beauty and importance of recycling and upcycling.
Her market is largely young women, but the brand is also for those who love and consume fashion consciously. Nhlapo uses fashion as a tool to influence people and encourage them to think carefully about how they use it.
“Fortunately, through traditional media and social media, I am able to reach thousands and thousands of people, not just in South Africa but across the world. If we consume fashion correctly and consciously, we have the power to reverse certain cycles and change the direction of our future,” says Nhlapo.
She goes on to say that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters in the world, however, thankfully, it is gradually moving towards a more responsible way of operating.
“In fact, green fashion is the next big thing. Designers and consumers are finally becoming more and more aware of the damages and negative, rippling effects of fashion and are now beginning to take such issues seriously. We are starting to see more sustainable fabrics on the runway and more eco-friendly brands launching into the market, while well-established brands are also moving in the direction of going green. Before we know it, green fashion will be the only thing we know.”
South African designer JJ Schoeman elaborates on ‘fast fashion’ and ‘green fashion’.
“I think we need to still go on a robust campaign on the implications of fast fashion, where we create more awareness around its consumption, as I feel that most consumers are still a little blasé about their purchase.
“There was a call for green fashion, because of the wasteful nature of production lines within our industry. This call was made to encourage designers like myself to use environmentally-friendly fabrics and methods in the production line.”
One of the ways he implements this in his production line is to cut material in a way there is less wastage.
“Over and above this, I also found ways in which to ‘get rid’ of the waste we accumulated over a season – these included donating to the trade, for reuse. I also try my absolute best to use fabrics that are more environment-friendly, but of course, I always need to take into consideration what the client wants.”
Schoeman opines the green fashion trend is growing.
“Absolutely, if we just take into consideration the amount of international names that have agreed to not using real fur in their collections. Recently, I read about the #G7Biarritz movement, which saw the Prada Group, Ralph Lauren and 30 other fashion industry brands sign the pact. The Fashion Pact is going to change the game in sustainable fashion all over the world.”
Yet another trend is ‘thrifting fashion’ that has become the cornerstone of shopping trends popular among the youth.
Vathiswa Yiba is an employee at a vintage thrift store in the lively Braamfontein area of Johannesburg. She has immersed herself in the culture of thrifting.
The store is one of several thrift stores in the city, and among the popular ones at the thrift market not far from Africa’s largest railway station, the Johannesburg Park Station.
“Thrifting is buying clothes that people think are not good enough anymore and those that they have discarded,” says 22-year-old Yiba.
“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things”– Vathiswa Yiba
The lower prices also offer financial reprieve and more options for the buyer.
Yiba has been thrifting since her high school days when she started with her own clothes.
“I don’t step into retail stores unless I am buying shoes,” she says.
“My first thrift was buying from people who sold from their bags, then from their car boots, then I leveled up and started going to the biggest market in the Johannesburg Central Business District; MTN Taxi Rank, known for its pavement crimes, despite the danger in that part of town, they have the best clothes.”
The street-savvy Yiba offers advice to those who are novices in the industry.
“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things, and here is a tip when you are going thrifting – make sure you have loose change and put it in safe pockets, away from pick-pocketers. That way you will be able to shop safely. However, you can find good-looking items but it’s not in your size; which is where the community comes in.
“We have tailors to alter the garments for you and it will be exclusive because it’s thrifted, no one has the same clothes. There is so much more you can do with discarded clothes. With the littlest things, you can make an amazing thing and you’ll be the only one who has it.”
Of course, there is a tinge of stigma associated with thrifting. Yiba says people think the clothes could also have belonged to those who have passed away, but she’s of the view that thrifting creates other opportunities.
“The [thrift clothing] may look messy and seem dusty, but once cleaned or altered, they will look retail. So it’s not just the connotations, it can be something perfect and the next person wouldn’t even know.”
These are sentiments also echoed by Leago Nhlapo, a content creator for fashion brands like Adidas, Sportscene and Skechers, who began his journey as thrifter.
“It started with thrifting because it makes you unique; there is no similar garment, every single garment is different from the next. So, I jumped from really cheap clothes [recycled clothes] to really expensive clothes,” he says.
However, Leago encourages green fashion because he says the fast fashion industry is the second-highest contributor to carbon emissions.
“The more people buy clothes, the more we contribute to global warming and we all know the global crisis, so if we recycle clothes, there will not be a need to make clothes, there are enough clothes for everyone existing. I am proof that second-hand clothes are cool and look better than people paying tons of cash.”
Seventy kilometers south of Johannesburg’s Central Business District is Nokwakha Qobo, who was born in the squatter camps of Phuma Zibethane in Sharpeville. And in the garbage dumps of these camps, the fashion designer in her emerged.
Qobo currently has a clothing line with an international reach. She fashions garments out of wastepaper she collects from rubbish dumps.
“I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything– Nokwakha Qobo
As a young girl, Qobo had to walk to school, and through the course of her journey home, she would pass a garbage site where old fashion magazines and newspapers were discarded.
It is often said that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This adage was not lost on her because she took inspiration from the articles in those magazines and now creates pieces that are sought after.
“That’s where I learned about fashion trends, that’s where I learned about different colors for different seasons, that’s where I learned about the body structure of a woman, actually, I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything,” she says.
Inadvertently, she too is contributing towards a shift in culture based on conscious consumption.
Perhaps, with the benefit of time, green fashion will be the norm as many believe we already have all we need.
– Motlabana Monnakgotla
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
Subscribe to Forbes
TikTok Owner ByteDance Continues Expansion Efforts With Music Streaming And Possible Rebrand
What’s Brewing In Tokyo?
Facebook Is Still Leaking Data More Than One Year After Cambridge Analytica
Highest-Paid Country Acts 2019: Lil Nas X Debuts; Luke Bryan Tops List
Why Winnie Harlow Doesn’t Believe In Role Models | Success With Moira Forbes | Forbes
Brand Voice3 weeks ago
FOCUS ON KENYA: A Chain Reaction Of Investment And Economic Growth
Wealth4 weeks ago
Jeff Bezos Is No Longer The Richest Person In The World After Amazon Stock Plunges
Lists4 weeks ago
The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019-20: LeBron James Scores Record $92 Million
Life3 weeks ago
Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’
Technology3 weeks ago
How A BlackBerry Wiretap Helped Crack A Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Cartel
Brand Voice2 weeks ago
Sanlam & NASASA Launch NASASA Financial Services For Stokvels
Travel4 weeks ago
Executive Travel: Slikour’s Mexico
Featured3 weeks ago
Déjà vu: South Africa Back to Winning