On Feb 1st we launched our Team Mum campaign to create pregnancy support groups in rural Kenya.
Child.org's strapline is "We Do What Works." That means we're always assessing what we do to improve our impact. It means we're not married to one specific type of intervention - we seize the best opportunities we find to improve the lives of children, based on the latest evidence.
On Friday 1st Feb we launched our biggest fundraising campaign to date - Team Mum. When you donate to join Team Mum before 30 April, your donation will be matched by the UK government, and all that match funding will be spent on creating pregnancy support groups in Meru.
I wanted to share with you some of the reasons we want to fund this programme - and the evidence behind our approach. This blog includes some of the information from the speech that Marti and I gave at The Shindig last Friday.
In Kenya, one in 26 babies die before their first birthday.
Life can be hard for women in Kenya, but it’s particularly tough for those living in rural Meru. In this region, less than 17% of mums are accessing the recommended amount of antenatal care visits. Rates of delivery in hospitals are nearly half of the national average. Rates of postnatal care within 2-3 days of delivery are low at 26%.
There are even more problem factors with the lack of infrastructure in roads and healthcare provision; travel is difficult, meaning a high turnover of health workers, inadequate facilities and erratic supplies.
The status of women in the region is low, with little say in the control of local resources and little personal agency in issues of healthcare seeking. Traditional practices and damaging social gender norms are common. 31% of adolescent girls in Meru have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), bringing additional risks in delivery. Teenage pregnancy is very common - 42% of pregnancies are to adolescent girls.
There’s another reason Child.org want to launch this programme in Meru - because we’re already working there! Thanks to the support of Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland, we’ve been running women’s groups in Meru for a few years now, offering agricultural training and, just recently, mother’s nutritional training. That means we’re equipped and we’ve been building the capacity of CIFORD, our local community partner, to enable them to deliver a complex programme like pregnant women’s groups on this large scale.
The women in the photo above is called Winfred. Winfred was still in school when she became pregnant with her first child. She wanted to continue with her studies, but her parents refused and told her she needed to earn money. Winfred says she was afraid to tell her parents about her pregnancy and when she did, she said “they changed, and there was no more love again.”
Winfred now has two children and lives with her grandmother. She’s training to work as a hairdresser. She struggles with the stigma she faces as a young mum in her community, she says “I am unhappy when I meet a group of people laughing, I think they are laughing at me.”
Feeling rejected and judged by their local community can make young mums isolated and vulnerable, because they have no one to ask for help and support.
We’re very happy to say that Winfred has recently begun a local training programme, funded by Child.org, where she has met other young mums. Learning with other local mums has given Winfred a new perspective on life. She said “I feel free, I feel like I’m my own person. I am happy. I feel like I’m going somewhere with my life, I feel like I can be something in life.”
The evidence for pregnancy support groups
Any scared new mum who has attended an NCT class, been able to ask a question on Mumsnet or simply felt lucky to have strong and supportive mum friends around them will understand the value of the groups we're trying to fund for new mums like Winfred in Meru.
But there's lots of evidence from the world of international development that supporting mums is the best way forward too. This blog from Melina Gates is a great read to explain why "healthy, economically empowered women are some of development’s best allies."
A large study published in 2013, which you can read here, has been conducted into the impact and cost-effectiveness of women's groups as an intervention to improve maternal and newborn health. The study included a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials in four low-income countries (Bangladesh, India, Malawi, and Nepal) and found that exposure to women's groups was associated with a 20% reduction in neonatal mortality. In studies where at least 30% of pregnant women participated in the groups, there was a 49% reduction in maternal mortality and a 33% reduction in neonatal mortality!
Support groups are promoted by the Baby Friendly Community Initiative and have been tested in Kenya through this pilot.
If you have any questions about the pregnant women’s groups you’re funding by donating to Team Mum, we would love to hear from you. Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org!
Cherio, Programme Manager
Child.org's commitment to better communications
If you’ve heard about our Team Mum appeal, you've probably seen a photo or a video of at least one of these mums with their children.
I'm so proud to work with these families to give people in the UK a clear picture of what motherhood is like in rural Kenya. With so much discussion in the press recently about how charities choose to represent the people they work with in African countries, I wanted to share with you some of the ways we’re innovating in comms at Child.org through Team Mum and our commitment to do this well.
Beyond consent forms
Donata, Conzolata, Lilian, Mercy, Ruth, Winfred and Sarah are active members of Team Mum. Just like a Team Mum supporter in the UK, they’ve contributed their time to improve the lives of mums in local communities in rural Kenya. Like any responsible charity, Child.org always ensure that anyone featured in our marketing has given formal consent, and understands how their pictures and stories will be used.
But we want to go further. That’s why I’ve been working with our Nairobi team, Charity Fast-Trackers and partners to explore ways to provide people with the photographs we take, and to thank them for their support.
In recent years, we’ve been working with better access to technology and the internet and our Kenyan team have been delivering more of our programming work directly. This opens up more opportunities for Child.org to aim higher in terms of the relationship we have with the people whose stories we share.
Here’s what we’re aiming for…
1. Share our content with those featured in it
Where possible, if we collect a great image, we want to share that picture with the person featured in it! The Baby Box photos we took of babies last year were shared back with mums via WhatsApp. For those mums featured in our Team Mum appeal, we had copies of all the beautiful campaign photos printed and framed the best. When the team returned to Meru in Nov last year with our Ride Africa riders, they had the chance to deliver these to some of the mums in person. Family photographs are rare and expensive in these communities, so it was lovely to be able to provide these for the families.
2. Value and thank the people who donate their stories
If someone in Kenya takes time to share their story with us and appear in photos, their contribution to our work is as valuable as that of someone in the UK who’s hosting a cake sale in their office. We want to value and thank these story-sharers for that contribution wherever we can. At The Shindig on 1 Feb, our UK supporters signed thank you cards for the women featured in our Team Mum campaign.
3. Dignity and positivity
When sharing a photo or video of someone we work with, Child.org staff ask ourselves: “Would I proudly share that photo publicly on Instagram if it was a photo of my friend’s child, or a member of my family?” If the answer is no, we don’t share it. That’s why you’ll only ever see photos and videos from us of people having a good day and bossing it.
4. Three-dimensional stories
If we’re using a person’s photo, we want to tell you their name (unless we’re protecting their identity for safeguarding reasons) and give them a voice. We want you to know something about them that makes them unique. We want to tell you about the hard work they’re putting in to improve their own life and the lives of others in their community (it's ludicrous that Child.org team should get all the credit!)
5. Support our network to do better too
Child.org are looking at how we can offer more advice to those who visit our programmes, whether they go to work on a Charity Fast-Track placement or to learn about our work on a visit at the end of their Ride Africa cycle ride. If you’re visiting our projects, we’ll support you in presenting yourself and the people you meet on your social media in a way that is hopeful and empowering, not harmful.
We’re proud to receive regular feedback from supporters who say that they find our comms materials positive and empowering. But we can always do better. If you have feedback or comments about our communications I would love to hear from you - email me at email@example.com or give me a ring in the Child.org office on 07751768207.
If you like the way Child.org do things - then please support us. We are small and brave and we need your support to grow our impact.