Charity: Mama Africa, The Gambia
Project Title: Healthy Families Happy Lives
PHAST Associates: Dr Cecilia Pyper, Tasmin Pyper, Jenny Sawyer
Date: 13th January 2012
Summary of work supported by PHAST:
Mama Africa, established by renowned Gambian artist Isha Fofana in 2009, is a non-profit cultural institution with the purpose of promoting art and culture in the Gambia and supporting underprivileged girls and women. The Mama Africa museum & art centre is set on the outskirts of Batokunku village in The Gambia.
Although small The Gambia is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, estimated to total 1.364 million people in 2003. In addition to high disease burden this West African country is challenged by high fertility rates (5.9 births per woman in 2003), high maternal and child mortality ratios, low contraceptive usage and high levels of teenage pregnancy. Poor maternal, neonatal and child health services, malaria, and diarrhoeal diseases are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in The Gambia (WHO).
Traditionally Gambian families tend to be large and three generations often live together in one household. In Gambia polygamy is a widely accepted practice, Islamic tradition allows a man to marry up to four wives. It is perceived as a status symbol to support a large family and have more than one wife.
In conjunction with the team at Mama Africa, PHAST Director Dr Cecilia Pyper and PHAST associates Tasmin Pyper and Jenny Sawyer began working on the family health project with local women in the Batokunku region in 2012.
The project aims to empower women through health knowledge to promote their own health, the health of their children and the health of the whole family. A key focus of the project is the use of fertility awareness based methods to improve child spacing. Other subjects covered by the programme to date include breastfeeding benefits and best practice, Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), malaria prevention, sanitation and hygiene and addressing common health related misbeliefs.
Current funding for the programme supports the five women trained to be trainers in these subject areas by Cecilia, Tasmin and Jenny to cascade the knowledge to 150 further women over a period of 6 months through training groups supported by a local nurse. Funding also contributes to materials for an annual home renovation weekend lead by artist Isha Fofana to demonstrate how to keep a safe, hygienic, organised and positive environment for the family.
Next Steps: The team will return to The Gambia in November 2013 to assess the knowledge level of the 150 women trained by the 5 Gambian trainers and expand the project further by delivering another Training of Trainers programme to ladies from a wider geographic region.