Tushikamane means: “We stick together”, and implies “Sticking together, we are empowered”. Its aim is to reduce maternal and child mortality in the small rural hamlets in Tunguli and Msamvu, by developing community participation, beginning with women’s groups.
The women’s groups began to be set up early in 2016, and began by identifying root causes of tragic death, and key issues to address. These issues include challenges as diverse as poverty; access to education; clean water; nutrition; family planning; access to safe childbirth; immunisation; emergency transport; prevention and early treatment of malaria; and many others.
Why do we need women’s groups?
Why not just go in and fix the problems? The answer is simply this: it does not produce sustainable development. Time after time, experience in Africa has shown that doing things to people, and doing things for people, ends up with effort fizzling out. Things break and don’t get fixed. Money and equipment disappear. The wrong priorities are addressed. The elders make all the decisions. Tradition stifles progress. And so on ....
The World Health Organisation is now quite clear about how we should be tackling the awful maternal death rates in rural sub-Saharan Africa - we need to engage with the mothers themselves, and give them a voice.
Once the wives and mothers have really begun to understand the issues, and once the myths and prejudices have been stripped away, an energy is unleashed from within the community that produces a lasting impetus for progress.
Not only does that mean that things happen, and are owned, but it also means that the entire community begins to engage more with health services, and with those governmental and non-governmental agencies who can help them make a real difference to their problems.
How bad are the problems?
In the UK, one mother in 10,000 dies in relation to giving birth. In rural Tanzania, by contrast, nearly 1 in every 100 women dies in childbirth, and up to 10% of children do not reach their fifth birthday.
In this vast but peaceful country, the reasons are many and interconnected. Lack of access to health care, social inequality, lack of education, chronic disease, malnutrition, long distances to travel when sick, poor family planning and poor transport.
Underlying it all, 90% of the population live on $2/day or less.
What projects are the communities now trying to tackle under the banner of ‘Tushikamane’?
There is so much to do, it would be difficult for outsiders to know where to start. However, in each hamlet, small, feasible, appropriate projects are now developing, which especially address the immediate needs of poverty and malnutrition. These ‘micro-projects’ are a vital component of Tushikamane. They not only deliver small steps and ‘quick wins’, but also maintain the energy and focus of the women (and the men!), directing it into activity which will reduce maternal and child death.
They include: chickens, eggs, goats, gardens, irrigation, well protection, malaria prevention, brick or other commodity production, sewing or other skill development, microfinancing for obstetric fee capping, etc, etc.
Additionally, the eleven hamlets within Tushikamane have come together to begin to address the big issues. Health-care outreach to the hamlets, immunisation, family planning, clean water (and water for crops), improving access to complex emergency obstetric care when things go wrong, new roles for traditional birth attendants, improving access to education for the next generation etc.
How does Mission Morogoro help?
Once the communities have begun themselves to undertake developments, they find that they have needs – not just for money, but for advice, expertise, friendship, encouragement, and for help tackling the inevitable problems which emerge. A broken pump, a roll of chicken wire, raw materials, buildings and repairs – an endless list of needs, perhaps, but our support is about empowerment.
‘Sticking together, we are empowered’.
You can be part of this inspiring development by donating – however small an amount, it goes a long, long way in rural Tanzania.
Where can I find out more?
Laurence Wood is an ex-obstetrician who went to Berega in 2013 to try to help address this awful maternal mortality problem. Having realised that most of the deaths occurred in the community, he began to explore how tragedy might be addressed at source.
In nearly one hundred blog postings, both from Laurence and other partners in Tushikamane, you can read more about the origins and progress of this programme here:
If you would like to be kept abreast of new posts, then follow @LaurenceWood2