Young mothers participating in a community engagement activity to learn about maternal and child health, in January 2019, Burkina Faso (Photo Credit: WUSC) / Des jeunes mères participant à une activité d'engagement communautaire pour se renseigner sur la santé maternelle et infantile, en janvier 2019, Burkina Faso (Crédit photo: EUMC)
Young mothers participating in a community engagement activity to learn about maternal and child health, in January 2019, Burkina Faso (Photo Credit: WUSC)

Engaging young men to improve maternal and child health in Burkina Faso

Maternal health isn’t just about moms

Around the world, hundreds of women die from preventable maternal complications each year – 94% of whom live in developing countries

In Burkina Faso, where WUSC has been working with funding from Global Affairs Canada to improve maternal and child health since 2012, the infant and child mortality rate is 81.2 per 1,000 live births – double the global average. The maternal mortality rate is 320 per 100,000 live births

When women and girls have greater control over their reproductive health and rights, they gain greater agency to make other decisions about their own lives as well, such as continuing their education or entering the labour force. This, in turn, contributes to the reduction of poverty and inequality for all. Everyone has a role to play in — and can benefit from — improving maternal and child health.

In Burkina Faso, we work in partnership with Université Laval, Farm Radio International and other local partners to improve the quality of maternal health services and raise awareness among women on improved maternal and child health practices. But an increase in knowledge is not enough to ensure greater control over their reproductive health. Other decision-makers, such as husbands, parents, other relatives, and community leaders, must also be engaged. Men and boys must be a part of the conversation, and the solution.

Our community engagement approach to improving maternal and child health in Burkina Faso

Through our work in Burkina Faso, we have trained over 679 healthcare workers (71% of whom are women) to improve their knowledge and skills in maternal and child health practices. But these skills will not go very far if women are not accessing healthcare services in their communities.

To help increase demand, Farm Radio International has supported local radio stations to run interactive radio programs to increase access to quality information about maternal and child health, and improve individual capacities to make informed decisions among women and those who support them. Since 2017, these radio programs have reached nearly 959,000 people in Burkina Faso, providing timely and relevant information about best practices and available services in maternal and child health.

Young men advocating for maternal health in their communities

WUSC’s initiative targeting young men as well as young women has already resulted in a positive ripple effect across communities. During a recent community engagement discussion on maternal and child health, a group of six young men, between the ages of 20 to 24, made a commitment to supporting maternal and child health through awareness raising, advocacy, and providing direct support to mothers and their children. Some of the actions this group has taken include:

  • Accompanying a pregnant woman with significant health concerns to the hospital, while her spouse was traveling.
  • Supporting a family to help their teenage daughter who was left to raise a child on her own, thereby enabling her to continue her education.
  • Raise a mother’s awareness  on dietary requirements for her malnourished child.
  • Helping a pregnant woman collect clean drinking water.

These young men are providing important leadership in their communities. They have told us that they are proud of their work helping to save lives. They feel that it is their duty and responsibility and they stand as ambassadors for the health of all mothers and children. 

They also however, express concern around the lack of commitment that persists in their communities, on issues of maternal and child health. Awareness raising is a long-term solution, one that can take many generations to stick. These young men will build upon our work, by leading talks on the topic among various youth groups in their communities and working with local radio to continue to produce interactive programs that raise further awareness on the issue. As a community-owned, sustainable solution to the serious problem of maternal and child health, we hope that they will be able to improve the wellbeing of mothers and children for years to come. 

 

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