Early Lives Equal Start

We are a community project responding to inequalities in access, experience and outcomes faced by Black and minoritized women & birthing people (those from the global majority) living in our local area of OX4.

We focus on supporting families through their baby’s first 1000 days, which spans pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. 

Why We Exist: 

“Early Lives Equal Start” launched late 2022, in response to local and national research. The aim is to support mothers and birthing people from the diverse migrant population of OX4, who are at greater risk of adverse outcomes to thrive in pregnancy and early parenthood.

In 2021, Omotunde Coker, a community researcher with HealthWatch, collaborated with mothers from Oxford’s Black and ethnic minority communities and Oxford Community Action (OCA) to create a film discussing their views on maternity care. In the video, mothers shared concerning stories about feeling unheard by medical professionals, lacking proper care, and struggling with language barriers when using services. A few however, also shared uplifting stories of dedicated midwives who had stood by their side through pregnancy and childbirth, helping them navigate challenges ranging from medical complications to immigration support. 

Our project responds to these and other issues identified by mothers from across OX4’s African, Caribbean, South Asian, East Timorese, Arab, and other ethnic minority communities. We also strive to better support our dedicated yet over-stretched community midwives to offer the best care to all families in our community. 

What We Do

Neighbourhoods can be primary units of change and critical starting points for efforts to improve health inequalities. Early Lives Equal Start is place-based working in action; improving the way organisations work together and with families, to shift attitudes and resources towards preventing problems that can start in early life. The programme is coordinated from Flo’s- the Place in the Park, a community-run enterprise hub, with co-located services including the community midwifery team and outreach obstetric clinic.

Antenatal Classes: we are working together with Midwives from the OUH to co-produce community-based antenatal education and culturally-appropriate health literacy information with relevant  interpretation support for those having their first or second baby in the UK

Maternal health justice partnership case work to support those facing challenges with housing and food insecurity, employment and benefits rights, debt management, immigration, or domestic violence

Training in community outreach, peer-to-peer support and advocacy: from Sept ‘23-March ‘24, a cohort of experienced local mothers are participating in a stipended programme of training and community work experience to equip themselves to better support new parents from their own communities to access essential resources. We are running a parallel maternity advocates training programme aiming to amplify the voices of local parents and advocate for meaningful systemic changes that go beyond our small grassroots project.

Our work is co-produced together with mothers and midwives in our community, who sit on the project steering committee along with representatives from our partners in the Oxfordshire Maternity Voices Partnership (OMVP) and the NHS. Together, we are working to ensure that every family in OX4 gets the support they deserve for a healthy and promising beginning.

Our Team

Adelia Fernandes

Adelia Fernandes

Maternity Advocate

Adelia initially joined the project in April 2023 as a Tetum interpreter for monthly clinics and weekly drop-in sessions at Flo’s. Now, in her role as Maternity Advocate, Adelia handles casework supporting East Timorese families in OX4 to navigate housing, immigration, benefits, and other challenges. She also works with the community midwives, facilitating accessible in-person antenatal classes and leading a weekly support group for East Timorese mothers near Cowley Centre.

Elita Quammie

Elita Quammie

Maternity Advocate

Elita joined the project at the start of 2024, working as Maternity Advocate alongside Adelia. Elita has a background in education, early years and health care. She is really excited about her new role as a maternity advocate. She is looking forward to working with and supporting women through their pregnancy, and during their transition to motherhood.

Melissa Latchman

Melissa Latchman

Community Manager

maco@flosoxford.org.uk

Madhur Wale

Madhur Wale

Project Coordinator

Madhur joined Flo‘s in 2022, initially working at the café. She joined the communities team in October that year and now splits her time between coordinating the OX4 Food Crew partnership (anchored at Flo’s) and supporting the Equal Start team with admin, comms, and community outreach.

Annie Davy

Annie Davy

Project Consultant