Parenting Well Programs (Malezi Mema) Take Off
Worldwide, women and children in poor and rural communities face the challenges of pregnancy, infancy, childhood and parenthood without supportive relationships in the home or community. Children growing up in these environments face the toxic stresses of death, disability, poverty, violence and neglect.
Malezi Mema (“Parenting Well” in Swahili) is a growing AMPATH initiative designed to teach parenting skills and ultimately, to improve health for children and families.
The Malezi Mema parenting program focuses on providing mothers with a core set of parenting skills aimed at increasing home based cognitive stimulation through song, play and dance. It also works to reduce parental stress and provide alternative methods to harsh punishment when it comes to managing difficult behavior.
The program utilizes AMPATH’s established network of peer support groups for mothers, called “chamas.” Women join these groups in pregnancy and remain in them for 3-4 years. Upon joining, women pledge to participate in bi-weekly meetings for one year and uphold chama goals including to support each other, to save and become entrepreneurs, and to commit to self-selected health and child development goals. Central to the chama approach is the integration of health, social and financial education with a savings/loans program.
Community health volunteers are working to implement Malezi Mema into chama communities. What began in 2015 with 18 chamas and 613 mom and kids is now being scaled with support from a family foundation, the Abbvie Foundation and Saving Lives at Birth. Within three years, Malezi Mema will reach 2,225 young mothers and their children over a population of 1.2 million people. Monitoring and evaluation teams are tracking the program’s impact and aim to demonstrate a 30% decrease in maternal and infant mortality, a 30% decrease in the use of harsh punishment and a 15% increase in early childhood growth.
By comprehensively addressing harsh punishment, parental stress, poor growth, and preventive health with Malezi Mema, AMPATH is interrupting the cycle of poverty and neglect that prevents children from growing into and thriving as young adults.