‘Our mission is to advocate support system for women’s reproductive, mental health issues’
Toyin Taiwo is an Information Technology professional and an entrepreneur who is also passionate about supporting women with feminine health issues. In this interview with NGOZI OKPALAKUNNE, she says it is her desire to ensure women overcome challenges associated with fibroids, which she says encouraged her to set up Feminine Health and Fibroid (FHF) Network. She stresses the need for women living with fibroids to speak up and share their experiences so as to get solutions to their problems. Taiwo also advocates for a support system for women’s health and mental health issues, especially around female reproductive health such as fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, among others. Excerpts:
Over the years, your area of expertise has been business and IT, but along the line, you delved into feminine health issues. What is the inspiration behind it?
The Feminine Health and Fibroid (FHF)– support network was birthed from my personal experience with fibroids and the desire to help and support other women going through feminine health challenges.
During the most difficult and darkest moments of my journey of fibroid, I yearned and searched extensively for a support system or network that could provide information, support, and hand-holding, a place of connection with other women who can share their stories to guide and alleviate my fears. I couldn’t find any.
This gap and the need for a support hub that was not available led to the start of the FHF support group.
Also, after my procedure, I discovered there are many black women going through a similar experience with fibroids, and some worse than I had it. And by speaking up and sharing my experience, I started attracting other women who needed hand-holding and coaching. Sharing my story also helped more women to come forward to share their stories.
Now we have a growing group support hub with women and the men who love them.
At the FHF support network, our goal is to create an environment to educate, support, empower, nurture and address conscious and unconscious biases that women face. An environment for women to speak up, be empowered to live their fullest lives, and achieve their very best.
Also, to educate and inform the next generation, so that they are better equipped to look after themselves.
What impact has the Feminine Health and Fibroid Network made so far?
More women are speaking up to address their issues and glean from others experiences. No more shame in talking about women’s health issues
More women are exposed to more information on lifestyles, alternative medicine, and more education on feminine health.
In the support hub, we have consultant gynecologists, general practitioners (GP), medical doctors, lifestyle coaches, and dieticians to help answer women’s questions, guide, and signpost our members, and meet needs.
We are getting more visibility to assist in supporting women. Our obligation is first to the women in our support hub.
Recently, our network in partnership with Vedic Lifecare hospital organized a walk and talk with the theme, “Speak up’’.
The hospital is also partnering with us to give women free consultation and 50 percent discount for required procedures.
Do you think it is capital intensive to facilitate an initiative tied to women’s health in Nigeria?
Indeed, it is capital intensive. There is a lot of infrastructure in place to ensure the running of the charitable organisation. Every project and event we are running is cost-related.
We seek sponsors, partners, and volunteers to collaborate with us.
What were some of the challenges you have faced so far in running the network?
Some of our challenges include women not wanting to speak up or share their journey in to health issues like fibroids due to cultural, social, and religious biases. The stigma around feminine health issues does not encourage women to open up. We want to crush the biases.
Other challenges include resources, financial resources, organizational support, governmental support, and initiative to support the cause for feminine health issues in the country.
We need more collaboration with organisations and government departments to create awareness and help women with the physical, emotional, and mental health issues.
Read also: How fibroids affect pregnancy and fertility
How do you intend to use the walk and talk initiative to influence and transform the lives of women?
To encourage and enable women to speak up, to create more awareness and attract the help and support required to proffer solutions to feminine health issues.
Talking helps to improve mental health, as we walk to improve our physical health, we also deal with our mental health in the process.
Also, to let women know they can get help when they speak up.
Part of our goal is to ensure we proffer solutions or a management plan at least for every woman who is part of our community with feminine health issues
Networking is everything. Your network is your net worth. Together we can create a powerful network to help women with health issues.
What policies can the government put in place to support initiatives like your own?
Government can come up with policies that help create awareness by supporting projects and working in collaboration with charitable organizations.
Policies to help priorities women’s health issues and provide free consultation and heavily discounted health care provision. After all, the woman is the center of the family unit. The strong fiber that helps the family unity pull together.
Once the woman is not healthy, it is not only affecting her physical body, it also affects her emotions and mental health, which affects her ability to function excellently. This, in turn, affects her relationships and her family.
The government should also create policies with an emphasis to increase corporate social responsibilities for feminine health issues.