Why do Women Die in Mali?

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By: Carolina Damásio, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Carolina Damasio, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

This was the question I asked myself every day since I arrived, working with local health statistics, scientific articles, books, conversations with local experts to find an answer. The responses were all the same: poverty, lack of health professionals, poor access of pre-natal consultations and hospital birth, low educational level and so on. The hard part is knowing that women are not dying because of the untreatable diseases. We already knew long ago how to reduce the “famous” maternal mortalities.

Some of these measures are simple… Progress on maternal health is possible! How can we do something for a country that loses one woman every three hours? How do we make society understand what it takes to save their women? The woman is not supposed to suffer or die! Pregnancy should not be a risk! Maternal mortality is an injustice! I wish could do much more…

  • Improve family planning?
  • Training of health professionals?
  • Facilitating access to prenatal care and delivery?
  • A major campaign against malaria?

And it was in the midst of these questions that I had the opportunity to work in rural areas of Mali. “If you really want to find out why women are dying, it is necessary to leave the big city,” was the council of many of the people in Bamako who have experience with maternal health. And now I have arranged to start work in small villages.

A few days ago I attended a meeting sponsored by Ashoka with the participation of women running projects for other women in rural areas of Bamako. I met some of Mali’s Changemakers, and it was great to make contact with people who are also struggling to make a difference in Mali. I was invited by members of Ashoka to work with pregnant teenagers in the region of Kati. Here some photos of this event.

I also had the opportunity to meet Coumba Touré, representative of Ashoka here in Mali. She has an amazing project for children which aims to rescue regional games and children’s stories related to local culture. She is a poet and author of children’s books and she was very interested in my ideas of uniting art with health, and work with the lullabies of the local culture. We talked about the possbility of translating my book (about my project in Brazil, “The Art of Being Born”) to French, making an adaption to the local culture, and perhaps using the poems and stories for children written by her.