Educate a girl, educate a community

This post was written by Sarah Manyeki, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer for Mothers’ Union Kenya – Anglican Overseas Aid’s partner in The Road Less Travelled project.

In the pastoralist communities of Kenya, there are several factors that limit women’s participation in safe motherhood practices, with the substantive factor being illiteracy. In Laikipia County, where the project works, 40 per cent of men are literate in Swahili while barely 25 per cent of women are. In Samburu County, 30 percent of men are literate while only 15 percent of women are. Figures for English literacy are even lower. Illiteracy not only inhibits mothers from reading and understanding their children’s clinic cards, prescriptions, and nutritional advice, but it also lowers their confidence and increases difficulties in understanding – much less applying – legal rights.

Suzan is working hard to change this. She is one of four female Community Development Committee (CDC) members elected to represent the Chumvi Group Ranch in Laikipia County, Kenya. The CDC was formed in March 2012, with the support of The Road Less Travelled project. Suzan is one of the few Maasai women from this community who has been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in education up to the secondary school level.

Suzan is one of the few women in her community who has been fortunate to have access to education; now she has started a literacy education class for other women in her community.  Image: James Senjura / MUACK

Suzan is one of the few women in her community who has been fortunate to have access to education; now she has started a literacy education class for other women in her community.
Image: James Senjura / MUACK

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Watch us in action at GMHC

Check out this two-part video from the Maternal Health Task Force of a panel session at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Tanzania last month. The topic of discussion was “Improving maternal health in rural populations” and among the presenters was James Senjura, Project Officer for Mothers’ Union, our Kenyan project partner.

James shared some key findings from The Road Less Travelled’s maternal and child health baseline survey among nomadic pastoralist communities in Laikipia and Samburu, Kenya (his presentation commences at 16:15 in part one).

Improving maternal health part 1 from Maternal Health Task Force on Vimeo.

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Bridging the gap in maternal health care for Kenya’s Maasai

This post was written by Sarah Manyeki, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, and Millicent Wanjiru, HIV Project Officer, for Mothers’ Union – Anglican Overseas Aid’s Kenyan partner in The Road Less Travelled project.

Traditional birth attendants (TBAs) are a sensitive topic in Kenya. They are proscribed because they were believed to have been contributing to the nation’s high maternal and child mortality rates.

Despite the TBAs being proscribed, they still play a very major role in assisting mothers to deliver in remote nomadic pastoralist communities. According to a Baseline Survey carried out by Mothers’ Union between January and May 2012, 92 percent of women in Laikipia and Samburu Counties give birth at home without the assistance of a skilled health worker.


In safer hands: could empowering traditional birth attendants be the key to bridging the health care gap for Kenya’s nomadic pastoralist communities?
Image: AVI / Hannah Ford

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Representing marginalised communities at a global level

The Road Less Travelled project partners will take to the stage at the Global Maternal Health Conference next month, to represent the nomadic pastoralist communities the project works with in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The conference, which is being held in Tanzania from 15-17 January 2013, brings together scientists, researchers, and policy-makers from all over the world to network, share knowledge, and build on progress toward eradicating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity by improving the quality of care.

Valerie Browning, Australian midwife and founder of the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), will be part of a panel presenting strategies to eliminate barriers to skilled birth attendance.

Valerie Browning (right) will be a panellist at the Global Maternal Health Conference in January 2013, presenting the Afar Pastoralist Development Association’s strategy for safe motherhood to a global audience.
Image: Anglican Overseas Aid

Recognising the important role of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in maternal and child health development in pastoralist communities, APDA is working with TBAs, communities, and local governments to reduce maternal and newborn mortality in Afar region of Ethiopia. Valerie will share APDA’s community-level strategy for safe motherhood in her presentation titled “Trained traditional birth attendants: Today’s missed opportunity”.

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Solar power to support safer birthing practices

Safe birthing kits will be delivered to pregnant women in remote communities of Kenya, along with solar lamps which will help during night births and in caring for babies post-delivery. Image: John Simiyu Nasongo

Mothers’ Union is working together with nomadic pastoralist communities in Laikipia and Samburu districts of Kenya to strengthen the birth plans of pregnant women. In consultation with the Ministry of Health, plans are now being considered to distribute safe birthing kits which will give mothers and babies a better chance at safe delivery in remote regions.

The first 200 kits will be distributed to pregnant women in their first trimester, along with instructions for use and the recommendation that it is best to give birth in a clinic or hospital where a skilled birth attendant is on duty. Distribution of the birthing kits will be supported by trained community health workers, whose role will include educating women about safe birthing practices and connecting them to health services in their region.

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Increasing accessibility, improving health

Nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya will gain improved access to health services through the formation of community health units. Image: Anglican Overseas Aid

In an effort to improve access to basic health care for nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya, the Mothers’ Union has been working alongside the Ministry of Health to facilitate the training of Community Health Workers. They will form part of a community health unit, which is being established in each of the group ranches and will be led by a Community Health Committee. An extension worker (nurse) will be placed by the government within each committee. This approach is in line with the Ministry of Health’s Community Strategy.

In Laikipia district, 25 women and men are being trained as voluntary Community Health Workers in each of the eight targeted group ranches, with the objective of improving health care in their ranches. Further trainings will take place in Samburu district in future. Mothers’ Union anticipates that 200 health workers will be trained in total, along with 104 committee members. Together, they will be responsible for educating their communities on health issues through the dedicated promotion of good health behaviours.

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