UGHE Student, Pharmacist Adigwe Empowers Women’s Health Through Art

Adigwe Faith at Butaro Campus, 2024. Photo by Asher Habinshuti / UGHE

Art can be a powerful conduit for social change. For UGHE MGHD student- Adigwe Faith Chukwudunmbi, it serves a higher purpose.

As a pharmacist, Faith harnesses her artistic talent as an avenue for activism, particularly advocating for women’s health and rights in Nigeria through her pioneering initiative, the Viera Amber Girl’s Initiative (VAGIN).

Faith believes that “when women are healthy and empowered, so too are families, communities, and countries around the world.”

Recently, she participated in the 2024 WomenLift Global Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, along with 20 other MGHD students. During the conference, she engaged in discussions with leading voices in women’s leadership on topics related to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Come along with us as we chat with Faith about her journey in global health, her enriching experiences in the MGHD program at UGHE, her innovative use of art to drive positive change in women’s health, and her aspirations for the future as an activist.

Q: Could you share a pivotal moment that solidified your passion for global health?

A: Witnessing the stark realities of gender and health inequities at a young age ignited a passion within me to be a part of the solution. I vividly recall witnessing the anguish of a woman subjected to domestic violence—a poignant reminder of the systemic injustices faced by women worldwide. This experience fueled my lifelong commitment to advocating for women’s health and rights. I pursued pharmacy to contribute to the easy and affordable access of treatments for the most vulnerable patients. However, overtime, I realized that the health inequities I observed were systemic and needed to be addressed at their roots. Therefore, I integrated my artistic talent with my pharmaceutical career to combat health and gender disparities affecting women in resource-constrained settings.

Q: What motivated you to pursue the MGHD Program?

A: At just eight years old, I harbored a deep-seated desire to positively impact humanity. Growing up amidst prevalent gender, sexual, and reproductive health disparities only intensified my resolve to effect change. Though I was already an activist for gender equity and women’s empowerment through art and a hands-on adolescent girl initiative, I realized there is much I can gain from the MGHD program to expand my impact – networks, global perspectives on gender equity, utilizing research to implement evidence-based interventions for women’s empowerment and gender equity, understanding how to make sustainable impacts as an activist through advocacy and policy, and much more. Now, as a UGHE student, the MGHD program offers me a unique platform, tools, and expertise needed to champion gender equality and women’s health on a global scale.

Faith in the middle together with VAGIN beneficiaries showcasing her sketch book in Nigeria.

Q: Tell us about your journey with VAGIN and your current focus in reproductive health.

A: As a female health and rights enthusiast, founding Viera Amber brand in 2013 was a manifestation of my vision to empower women through art. This vision evolved into VAGIN, a more practical platform dedicated to addressing female health and rights issues, particularly in sexual and reproductive health.

Our approach is simple yet impactful – one girl at a time. Through targeted campaigns and community outreach, we strive to foster positive change in the lives of young women.

VAGIN focuses on delivering Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) education, products, and services to adolescent girls in low-resourced settings through field visits.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we successfully offered free training to over 200 females and males through the Viera Amber brand and so far wee have served over 1,000 girls in low-resourced settings through the Viera Amber Girls Initiative.

Besides, by creating feminine-centered illustrations and designs, we empower women in all aspects of their health – mental, physical, and more as well as train women in low-resource settings to design similar illustrations.

Currently, the initiative is adopting a tool called VaginART (the Viera Amber Girl’s Initiative Art program) to harness the power of art in teaching adolescent girls about their SRHR.

Through this impactful work, we have won some awards as a testament to what art can contribute to empowering women’s health and gender equity:

  • 2019 GTCO (GTBank Fashion Weekend) Sketch2fame winner : This award honored the collection “OVA-REACT” for its captivating sketches interpreted with a modern design language, featuring simple, comfortable, and stylish designs aimed at advocating for women’s rights and justice.
  • Winner of the 2020 Design Fashion Africa Wearable Art Contest : This award recognized the “The Sisi Eko Bag Collection,” inspired by Lagos traffic, for its exceptional creative design and presentation, while also reflecting the resilience of the African woman who navigates life with grace and style.
  • 2020 Heineken Lagos Fashion and Design Week Top 10 Finalist : This collection drew inspiration from the hardworking Akwete women of Abia State. It was noted that only women were permitted to weave the Mkpuru Akwete clothing, serving as a source of empowerment, irrespective of societal patriarchy.

Some of Faith’s works that received awards. 

Q: Which modules in the MGHD program have been most impactful for you?

A: The Gender-Based Violence module resonated deeply with me, given my advocacy focus. Additionally, exploring men’s health and rights illuminated the interconnectedness of gender dynamics in healthcare. Understanding the holistic nature of women’s health has been transformative, emphasizing the importance of inclusive approaches in promoting gender equality.

Q: How has the MGHD program influenced your self-awareness and understanding of others?

A: UGHE provides a nurturing environment conducive to personal growth and mutual learning. Interacting with diverse peers has broadened my perspectives and enriched my understanding of global health challenges. Every class is an opportunity to exchange ideas and collaborate towards common goals, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.

Q: Can you share insights into your practicum project and its significance?

A: My practicum focuses on exploring barriers and preferences for family planning among adolescents in Neno District , Malawi. This project aligns with VAGIN’s mission to empower young women and underscores the importance of addressing reproductive health needs at a grassroots level. By engaging with local communities, I hope to facilitate informed decision-making and improve access to essential healthcare services.

Q: How do you plan to apply the learnings from the MGHD program post-graduation?

A: Dr. Paul Farmer’s wisdom underscores the transformative power of collaboration. Armed with a newfound understanding of partnership and inclusivity, I aspire to leverage my expertise to drive sustainable change in women’s health. By fostering interdisciplinary alliances and advocating for policy reforms, I aim to create a more equitable and resilient healthcare ecosystem, one that empowers women and transforms lives.

Faith at the Campus in Butaro, 2024.

Faith is part of a diverse cohort of 49 students representing 14 countries in the Master of Science in Global Health Delivery program, set to graduate on August 4th, 2024. Her innovative approach to tackling gender and health disparities through the integration of art aligns perfectly with both UGHE and Partners In Health’s commitment to advancing equity through interdisciplinary solutions.

Women are central to PIH’s work worldwide with two-thirds of its services dedicated to women and their children, shaping its programs based on their needs. In nations with alarmingly high rates of maternal mortality, PIH delivers comprehensive maternal healthcare, ranging from prenatal and postnatal check-ups to care at maternal waiting homes, attended facility-based deliveries, cesarean sections, and family planning services. This includes offering long-acting reversible contraceptives to women globally. In total, PIH conducts nearly one million women’s health visits annually.