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.
During this month we celebrated International Women’s Day and I wondered after so many discoveries, why don’t we devote the entire year? Every day I spend in Mali I admire the women of this country more and more, always strong and sustained. I do not know if they have a lot to celebrate: I guess they do not want to be sexually mutilated, and probably they do not want to be afraid of dying in childbirth. They want to be heard, to make decisions, and to have more time for their children (despite always being with them on their back). And they certainly want opportunities to make their lives different!
This month I traveled to Koutiala with the intention of starting the idea for the Art of Birthing, with the NGO that will replicate the project in rural areas of Mali. I had the opportunity to participate in the celebrations of women’s month, including a big party for over 300 women from the community. Dr. Assiata, medical director of ASDAP Koutiala, has extensive experience in reproductive health, and believes that “behavior change” is crucial for health education. Health information alone is not enough; more is needed to overcome cultural barriers. For all the honorsshe received, I’m sure Dr. Assiata has been responsible for changes in the lives of many women . What is her secret? She explains, “I just help the women believe they can do much more! We are not inferior to men, we have the right to choices, opinions and sometimes only improving communication with their husbands makes the difference ”
And because it was a month of celebration, my book project is almost completed! Among the discoveries and adaptations to Africa, we did a workshop to make toys for babies with fabrics during the activity with art. As always, their creativity surprised me! Another interesting activity was to develop a bayá (a sort of belt of beads that women in Mali carry around the waist) that also serves to know the menstrual cycle! There is nothing better for reproductive health education than knowing one’s own body!
Finally, the first baby of the group of women was born! And I wish his life can be different–a life full of care, health, and the opportunity to bond with his mother.
I do not know about the rest of the world, but this time is dedicated to the women. Women from Mali, you should know: I’m with you!