Before I Was Born

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By: Carolina Damásio, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by Carolina Damásio, 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.

“Before I was born,

I was made of LIGHT
Yes! I use to play with STARS…”

While I´m thinking about the future, several girls in Mali become pregnant, are rejected by their families, must leave their villages and have no idea how their future will be. And this country does not understand how this group needs support…

When I decided to adapt the “Art of Birthing” into the Mali context, I decided that it would be replicated with teenagers, most who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. But I confess I had no idea how these girls are neglected!

“…I used to travel around.
I played around the sun
And lay colors on the face of the moon…”

I heard a few days ago from a person who had worked in the field  of maternal health in Mali for 30 years: “​the concept of working with this group is something very new for the people of Mali.” In a Muslim country full of traditions, a pregnancy without a marriage results in the girl’s isolation. Without any prospects for the future, and with no support in a location that’s hard to survive, I spend my last weeks working to make sure the “innovative idea” continues.

“…One day, I came by this WORLD
And I saw.
So many people struggling

And I said
I want to bring some JUSTICE…”

In Koutiala, I met ​​a group of pregnant girls between 13 and 18 years old–most of them going through painful life experiences. The first exchange of words and glances showed suffering and abandonment. Sometimes it seemed that they did not believe that someone was ​willing to offer advice from a perspective other than the traditional societal viewpoint. And I started teaching health with art, enabling them to appreciate the special time of pregnancy. At the end of the first meeting they were photographing the life and and coloring their smiles…

With the book almost at completion, I had a meeting with the director of the organization I work here (ASDAP) trying to get them to continue working with my ideas and with this group in rural areas. We are working on a way to organize a network of volunteers in partnership with a British organization and also to disseminate the methodology in a midwife training course, time when people are more open to new ideas.

After the inspiration from the meeting in Ghana with other Young Champions and all the efforts we’ve done here in Mali for a forgotten group, made me feel I´ll start a new stage, even with the program ending. Just as the end of pregnancy marks the beginning of a great and different journey, my heart is preparing to change its direction.


Long before I was born

I was made of LIGHT

And I use to play with the STARS…” (Coumba Toure)