Chamas for Change: Strengthening Maternal and Child Health

In East African culture, chamas are groups of women who come together to pool resources and receive support.  Similarly, Chamas for Change is a program initiated by AMPATH through the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health core to provide support to mothers by connecting them to other mothers from the same community unit. The groups integrate health, social and financial literacy education with a form of table banking that enables women to save and obtain loans.

When bundled together, this support is called GISHE - Group Integrated Savings for Health and Empowerment. Together, the women pledge to uphold the health-related goals of the chama which are: 1) to attend four prenatal care visits, 2) deliver in a facility, 3) breastfeed exclusively, 4) obtain long term family planning, and 5) ensure their children are fully immunized.

Since launching in October 2012 in Bunyala, Western Kenya, more than 800 mother-child pairs from 18 community units have participated in the program. Chama women are five times more likely to deliver in a facility and receive a 48 hour visit from a Community Health Volunteer.  From 2013-2014, 98% delivered in a facility, 91% breastfed exclusively to 6 months and 70% had received long-term family planning. 

Fathers are getting involved too, forming groups called Chama cha BabaToto to promote greater male involvement in pregnancy and parenting.

Based on this program’s great success, AMPATH is scaling-up this work to two new counties and integrating this solution into broader population health strategies.