Lifetime risk of death for pregnant women in Uganda is 1 in 49. For perspective, that number is 1 in 3,800 in developed countries and 1 in 150 in developing nations, according to the World Health Organization. Drawing on the power of basic human storytelling and today’s low-cost communication technologies and media, Maama Ne Maama aims to increase the number of mothers seeking skilled health care on the ground and convince policymakers to improve access and address challenges immediately.
Beginning in 2014, Twezimbe Development Foundation—a grassroots development NGO in Uganda—and the USC Institute for Global Health began collecting birth stories in rural villages to build a storytelling platform where mothers can share their experiences to save lives in their communities.
Live. Share. Learn.
Maama ne Maama, which translates to “mother with mother” in the Luganda language, uses films, writing, photographs and social media to spark conversation among mothers to address concerns, challenges and misconceptions that prevent or hinder them from seeking and receiving health services. Locally, the stories enable women to share and learn from each other’s experiences in receiving—or not receiving—skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, while globally, mothers and policymakers can tune in to learn more about the issues on the ground and join the conversation and efforts to save lives.
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When Maama Ne Maama first filmed Fatuma Nampiki she was a 22-year-old mother of one and seven months pregnant with twins.
A hairdresser living in Kikunyu village in Kammengo sub-county, she has problems securing transportation to seek care far away because she is having twins and her local health clinic can’t support her. While she prefers to receive care at health centers, she says she struggles with long lines, uncomfortable waiting rooms and rude staff—as well as recurring pain for which she doesn’t receive treatment.
“They always tell me I’m fine”
“In hospitals you have a better chance”
We caught up with Fatuma Nampiki again five months after she gave birth to her twins. While she delivered both children safely and all are doing well, she knows all too well that many women aren’t so fortunate. In this Maama Story, Fatuma shares her thoughts on health workers, male involvement and the importance of seeking care at hospitals.
Mary is a 33-year-old restaurant owner and mother living deep in the rural Bujjuko Kasana village with her husband and three children in Muduuma sub-county.
Maama ne Maama tracked her fourth pregnancy at five and seven months and followed up with her after she gave birth. Throughout her pregnancy, she struggles with the same challenges many women in Mpigi face—exhaustion, transportation issues, long health center waits and medical supply shortages—and, perhaps most notably, a lack of support from her husband.
5 Months – “I have no energy”
At five months, Mary is fatigued. In addition to mothering her three children, she is responsible for the physically demanding work of running the household as well as her restaurant, 3Ds.
7 Months – “My baby is not in the right position”
Seven months pregnant, Mary Nalukwago returns to the busy Muduuma Maternity Ward for a check-up. The visit is chaotic and confusing—but informative.
7 Months – “Always have a helper”
At seven months pregnant she visits the Muduuma Maternity Ward for an education session with other mothers to learn how to prepare for delivery and to get her checkup.
Post-Birth – “I was in unbearable pain”
Mary walks us through the day she gave birth to Douglas, from going into labor in the middle of the night to delivering on her neighbor’s living room floor. Without proper birth supplies—and without her husband, who left her there—Mary’s experience is representative of the potentially fatal challenges pregnant mothers in her region face.
Betty Sanyu conceived while she was still in school and living with her parents. She refused to abort and both her school and her parents threw her out when they found out. Betty went to live with her sister, who explained the importance of receiving antenatal care and they were both relieved when Betty delivered her baby boy safely. Since that experience, Betty says her pregnancies have gotten much easier because she knows what to expect and no longer suffers as much from malaria.
“They chased me away from home”
Pregnant with her fifth child, 26-year-old farmer Resty Nakityo has experienced difficult childbirth in the past. She seeks antenatal care four-to-five times with each pregnancy and expresses the same frustrations many of her peers share about long wait-times and poor service at the health centers. While she supplements her antenatal care with herbs from traditional birth attendants, she is wary of TBAs’ limitations. She is especially concerned about what she perceives as men’s indifference towards their wives’ needs during pregnancy.
“I had a very high fever”
“The baby is fine but extremely big”
At seven months, Resty is juggling an active home life with four other small children to care for.
Regina Nabawesi, 22, is a mother of three boys living in Sekiwunga village in the Kiringente sub-county. She had positive experiences with her local health centres during antenatal care and delivery.
“Deliver from a health center”
Alice Nakawuki & Lukoda Livingston
When our team visited traditional birth attendant Victo Nanono in Kammengo sub-county, we met farmers Alice Nakawuki,19, and her husband, Lukoda Livingston, 25, who live in Butoolo village. At nine months pregnant, Alice has been visiting Victo for check-ups in addition to several antenatal visits at the Bootolo Health Centre III. While the couple says they’ve been treated well at the health centre, they prefer to see Victo; they say they like how she provides herbs and shows more compassion towards the mothers. The couple faced challenges with their parents after finding out Alice was pregnant but the families eventually reached an agreement. Alice and Lukoda now live together in a house with their parents’ help. Lukoda, however, says he still struggles to provide adequate support for Alice, who has been sick with malaria on and off throughout her pregnancy.
“Go for antenatal early”