Pregnancy Histories and Community Education in Peru

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The following is part of a series of project updates from Future Generations. MHTF is supporting their project, Using Pregnancy Histories to Help Mothers, based in Peru. More information on MHTF supported projects can be found here. All photos courtesy of Laura Altobelli.

Written by: Future Generations

Sixty-three Women Leaders from highland Andean communities (“comunidades alto-andinos”) have been selected by the women in their own communities, and have started their training in maternal-neonatal-child health using an experimental training design. Each of the four training groups has 13 to 19 Women Leaders that meet monthly. The first round of workshops in October was an introduction to the program and the topic of pregnancy with a focus on danger signs, nutrition and preventive home care and hygiene during pregnancy, birth planning, and community organization for evacuation of obstetrical emergencies. Two of the four training groups had an additional focus using the Pregnancy History methodology. One of our challenges: Women Leaders bring their small children with them at our invitation so they don’t worry so much about having to get home quickly. It helps to hire a child-care person to distract the toddlers while their mom is in the workshop. Another challenge: all of our training is conducted in the Quechua language. It helps to have the workshops tape-recorded and transcribed so that non-Quechua speakers (such as the P.I.) can have access to the proceedings of the workshops for later review and analysis.

Two remarkable events occurred this quarter, one good and one bad. The good one was the spontaneous formation of an Association of Women Leaders by one of the intervention groups. The idea was launched by two Women Leaders, and a long discussion resulted in their decision to form the association and elect a President, Vice-President, and Secretary. This is similar to the type of male-dominated community councils found in every Andean community. Women’s empowerment at work! The second event was a death by hemorrhage of a 23-year-old woman during her first birthing. She lived in one of the easy-access “low communities” next to the main road in the valley, a 10-minute ride to the Urcos Health Center, and therefore not one of our project communities. Investigation of the maternal death suggests that certain older women in the community refused to allow help-seeking during the home birth. As a result of this tragedy, the Urcos Health Center asked the community to select two Women Leaders and requested that Future Generations include them in our training workshops on maternal, neonatal, child health. This death has provided for much relevant discussion and learning during our training workshops.