Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Inspiring Inclusion in Clubfoot Care on International Women’s Day

It should come as no surprise that women around the globe are (and have always been) at the root of meaningful work to better their communities, countries, and the world. International Women’s Day on March 8th is a chance to recognize these accomplishments, and also an opportunity to create space for women’s participation in all areas of society.

Women are underrepresented in the healthcare field globally, and in the world of clubfoot care, this is no exception. Yet many female providers in MiracleFeet’s network have demonstrated unwavering dedication in the face of obstacles, both societal and personal and serve as an inspiration to us all.

Rachida Bettioui is a physiotherapist at the Ibn Sina Hospital in Rabat, Morocco. She said:

“I love specializing in clubfoot because I can use touch to identify the degree of the symptoms and the curvature of the feet.”

She shares as she runs her hands over the foot of a newborn visiting the clinic for the first time:

“It is one of the only disabilities you can feel and do not need to see.”

This is especially important to Rachida, who lost her sight when she was 30 years old.

Rachida attended University Mohammed 5 in Rabat, Morocco, originally studying economics. It was during a school break after her third year that her sight began to fade. She pursued treatment but to no avail. Ultimately, she had to accept that she was now permanently blind.

Unsure what to do or what kind of future was possible, she started studying the Quran and, just by listening to it, memorized it in its entirety. She then received a Quran written in Braille as a gift and started researching Braille to learn more about resources available to blind people. She soon found and joined an association for blind people where she met others like her who were coping with losing their sight and having to learn to navigate the world anew.

Inspiring Inclusion in Clubfoot Care on International Women’s Day
Rachida Bettioui Physiotherapist at Children Hospital, CHU IBN.

When she first joined the association, she was shocked by the independence of the other members. She said:

“I couldn’t believe it – they were walking by themselves, they were laughing. I thought, surely they can see. But one day, I dropped my stylus, and everyone started to look for it using their feet.”

She recalls with a smile:

“That’s how I knew they were really blind – like me.”

Today, Rachida works directly with clubfoot patients, and she also oversees parent education – an important component of clubfoot treatment. Since the Ponseti Method is an iterative process, it’s important for parents to understand how the method works, what to expect, and how to support their children through care.

Rachida shares:

“I’ve built strong trust with the mothers. I try to understand their concerns and explain exactly what they need. And when the child is eventually fully treated, the mothers thank me for comforting and assuring them.”

In the clubfoot ward of the children’s hospital, Rachida also oversees the storage and organization of the clubfoot braces arranged from smallest to largest. She also shows parents the correct way to put on the foot abduction braces, which is crucial in preventing relapse.

Rachida is a member of Premier Pas, MiracleFeet’s partner organization in Morocco responsible for clubfoot treatment in five different university clinics. Premier Pas provides technical, organizational, and financial support to Moroccan hospitals so that they can provide affordable and effective treatment, using the Ponseti method as the standard for treating children born with clubfoot in Morocco.

Today, Rachida walks to and from the hospital with no cane or assistance, a 20-kilometer journey. Arriving at work, she moves around the clinic with familiar ease. She has a luminous smile, bright green eyes, and an incredibly warm demeanour. It is obvious that she is very well-known and well-respected by her colleagues. Junior clinic assistants sometimes help her navigate between patient appointments and clinic rooms, but more often than not, they are instead guided by Rachida learning from her technical skills and a unique perspective on life.

Watching her work, it’s easy to see why she’s so good at her job – because she loves it – loves working with children, helping families, and transforming the futures of those affected by clubfoot. Her impact is a reminder that understanding, valuing, and prioritizing women’s inclusion is vital in forging a better world.

To learn more about MiracleFeet’s transformative work, please visit: https://www.miraclefeet.org.

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