The Struggle to Access Care: Helen Abdul

4 min readSep 11, 2020


As told to Tariah Adams, as part of the Brave Voices, Bold Actions podcast

My name is Helen Abdul. I am from Niger State, Nigeria. I live in Chachanga Local Government Area of Niger State. I was pregnant with my second child in late September of last year.

When I felt the first spasms of pain hit me, I convinced myself it was just a normal pain that would go away. My delivery date was still two weeks, so I felt confident I wasn’t in labor.

As I bent over to pick up a bucket of water about 30 minutes later, I felt the pain again — it had worsened. My first child was delivered right on the due date, so I still did not give it much thought and dismissed the pain. The third wave of pain came with a vengeance and a determination to get my attention. At this point, I couldn’t pretend or ignore the pain anymore — I screamed for help.

My neighbours heard me through the window and rushed to my home. They quickly called a Keke (tricycle) to take me to the community Primary Health Care centre where I was registered. When we arrived at the facility, we were told they had closed at 5:00 pm. I was an hour late.

At this point, my neighbours and I were anxious. There were four other women with me, each with a different opinion about what our next action should be. My husband was unavailable; his mobile phone was not connecting. My neighbours finally made the decision to go to a private hospital 45 minutes away.

Getting transportation was nearly impossible, we found a vehicle after 20 minutes. The car was not big enough so only two of my friends could accompany me. Oh! The excruciating pain I had to endure on that 45 minutes ride that felt like 24 hours to the hospital.

After waiting for 30 minutes at the hospital, we were told the midwife on duty had just stepped out and there was no doctor at that moment. By this time, I felt like I was going to die along with my child. One of my neighbours started crying and calling on God for help.

Someone suggested we go to the general hospital. On our way, my water broke in the car. We were lucky the water broke not too far from the hospital. When we got there, a nice, calm midwife took over. I was moved to the labour room and in less than 30 minutes my son was born.

His father named him lucky. Lucky was truly lucky. When I think of all the things that could have gone wrong that day, I shudder, but today my neighbors and I look back at the situation and laugh. I felt so lucky I was able my access right to healthcare, even though it took three tries.


Respectful Maternity Care Charter: The Universal Rights of Women and Newborns

Article 6 of the Respectful Maternity Care Charter:

6. Everyone has the right to equality, freedom from discrimination & equitable care

No one is allowed to discriminate against you or your newborn because of something they think or do not like about either one of you. Equality requires that pregnant women have the same protections under the law as they would when they are not pregnant, including the right to make decisions about what happens to their body.

Legal authority
International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Article 12
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979, Article 5, 12
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990, Article 23, 24
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006, Article 25 International Labor Organization, Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169), Art. 25

Regional legal authority
European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, 1997, Article 3 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1998, Article 16
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1990, Article 14 Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1988, Article 10

Learn more about the universal rights of women and newborns at




Inspiring and convening advocates to uphold the right of all women to be safe and healthy before, during and after pregnancy.