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Village Mothers & Fathers Community Outreach Program - Joining Hands for Safe, Gentle Birth

The goal of the Village Mother & Father program is to offer safe, "gentle" birth services as an alternative to high-risk home births .

Photo of Nicole Seters
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In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

Our idea is designed for families in low resource areas, where birthing is considered a "women's issue" and men are not invited to understand or join the journey. It is our goal to join hands to nurture an environment where both mothers and fathers feel supported as caregivers in the birthing experience. We intend to reach out to marginalized families in underserved areas, so they feel informed and respected in the decisions they make through the full spectrum of their reproductive needs.

In Uganda the lifetime maternal mortality risk is 1:44, comparatively in Canada it is 1:5200 (World HealthOrganization). This shocking disparity is largely due to a shortage of healthcare centers and lack of properlytrained medical attendants. Despite the risks involved with home deliveries, many women are distrustful of clinical settings and still prefer to deliver at home for a variety of reasons including; lack of information about options and the associated risks, inability to pay delivery fees, negative past experiences with poorly trained staff at government hospitals, refusal by husbands to allow access to maternity care,

When a mother is lost her family suffers and the effects ripple out to the entire community. Our Village Mother Program is a continuation of a very successful pilot project that was co-created in February 2017 by our Director, medical officer, midwife and concerned local women with the intent of building trust in the community and strengthen the working relationship between nurses, midwives and expectant mothers.

Six ‘VillageMothers’ were elected and provided with T-shirts, with the name “VillageMother” printed on the front, as well as business cards with clinicinformation. Village Mothers agreed to move through their communities and speak one-on-one with women, counsel them about the services offered at our clinic and encourage them to come for prenatal appointments.  Additionally, they worked hand in hand with our midwives to mobilize weekly maternity outreaches and when they encountered a woman birthing at home and in distress, they brought her to our clinic by taxi. To compensate Village Mothers for their work, we provide a small incentivefor every new prenatal patient referred and for each maternity outreach organized. This helped to build localsustainability and empowered our Village Mothers with a small income to independently care for their ownchildren and families. By creating a strong circle of women and encouraging them to work together to meet theneeds of their communities, we are building relationships that promote recognition, mutual respect andcollaboration. By creating a bridge into the community and allowing mothers to experience compassionate care in a medical setting, we are building trust one mother at a time, and as our reputation develops, it continues to ripple out naturally. 

The Village Fathers program is a new initiative for 2018, inspired by our own Village Mother program and the Paternity Project implemented by  Cameroon Agenda for  Sustainable Development (CASD), which is part of the Healthy, Compassionate Birth Network sponsored by our partners at Global Force for Healing.  The objective of the program  is to increase paternal involvement  and improve birth outcomes by offering knowledge resources for maternal care to expectant fathers in limited resource settings.  Recent studies suggest that a father's involvement before his child is born may play an important role in preventing death during the first year of life.  According to a report by Amina Alio PhD, University of Rochester, paternal support can

  •  decrease a mothers emotional and physical stress
  • lead to healthier maternal behaviors (better nutrition, less heavy physical labour, earlier prenatal care
  • decrease risk of preterm birth, low birth rate and fetal growth restrictions

A growing body of evidence is making it clear that fathers who are engaged in pregnancy and birth are more likely to remain engaged in their children's lives.  Families are the building blocks of society, by involving fathers in all phases of pregnancy, birth and childrearing, and by broadening their contributions, we are encouraging a positive impact on the overall welfare of mothers, children and communities as a whole.  

In rural Uganda a very small percentage of men accompany their partners to health care centers and an even smaller percentage attend  births (since we opened our clinic in 2010 not one father has accompanied a mother into the birthing room).  The village father program aims to build trust and break down barriers that label childbirth as a “woman issue," so expectant fathers can be receptive to one-on-one educative talks in safe “man-friendly” corners.  Male community health workers will be trained by our male nurse on how to present the CASD curriculum (Antenatal Lesson for Men) in a safe, approachable way and will receive a T-shirts with our clinic logo on the front and the title “Village Father” on the back.  Village Fathers will move through their communities and approach expectant fathers and invite them to sit for friendly lessons on how they can best support a healthy pregnancy.  Village Fathers will  receive an incentive to compensate them for their efforts and male participants will receive a small incentive to encourage them to complete the full curriculum.  

Topics discussed in the curriculum will include

  • Signs and symptoms of pregnancy
  • Physical and psychological development of the mother and baby 
  • Roles of the expectant father
  • Labour and delivery
  • Newborn survival & postnatal care
  • Importance of breastfeeding
  • Family planning

At what stage is your idea?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Since the inception of the Village Mother program our birth rate increased from 10 babies per month in February 2017, to 26 per month in August 2017, our prenatal visits grew from 57 to 97 mothers per month and our general patient population expanded from 200 to +400 people per month! It is our hope that the Village Father program will compound this success and help us reach out to even more community members to achieve our goal of supporting holistic, healthy families.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Working hand-in hand with a diverse group of individuals who represent many cultures and reflect a multitude of experiences, is an effective way to create positive change. We all benefit from broadening our individual perspectives, by putting our heads together and pooling resources we create an ocean of opportunities. OpenIDEO offers a platform for people to reach out and collaborate. Sunrise Centre is open to joining with individuals and groups to create a network for the greater good.

Tell us about your work experience:

Founder & Director of a non-profit org, with 10 years experience implementing community based programs that promote education and healthcare services in low-income areas. A self starter with creative skills, looking to work with organizations and individuals to address human development needs.

This idea emerged from...

  • A group brainstorm

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • yes

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • no

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no


Join the conversation:

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Photo of Mercy Chikhosi

Hi Nicole,
It looks like we have the same idea. The topics to be covered are almost similar. I am interested to learn more from you since you are already doing it.

Photo of Jennifer Doebler

Nicole: You are clearly addressing a need in Uganda (and many places) with important and medically-based information for mothers-to-be. Congratulations! I agree with Justin's comments below about considering how you approach fathers. It wasn't that long ago in North America that dads weren't involved at all in childbirth. I was going to suggest that you consider starting with the postpartum side of the equation. If you can get them interested in understanding how to make sure their children "are strong and healthy" to quote Justin again, I think that could be more appealing, and more practical for them. I would think that men can actually imagine a role there. Then over time work your way backward into pregnancy. Just a thought. I'd talk to a few men there and see what might be your best way in... Best of luck to you!

Photo of Nicole Seters

Thank you for your comments Jennifer. We'v been working closely for several years with three fathers from our village who are members of our local Parent Committee...they have children in our preschool & elementary school and have been helping us get fathers more involved in their children's education. Over the years they have successfully brought significantly more men to our monthly school meetings...which is wonderful! In that way we are currently working with fathers and have already built relationships in the community. The next step in our view is pregnancy support, which includes postpartum (nutrition for Mammas and Babies, breastfeeding and immunizations). One of the men from our Parent Committee, along with our male nurse, is helping us plan the Village Father project and together they will be responsible for leadership and implementation on the ground. Both are very enthusiastic and feel, that with patience, men will get involved.

Photo of Justin West

First off, I love the idea and it's great that it's already shown success!

Regarding this part: "Village Fathers will move through their communities and approach expectant fathers and invite them to sit for friendly lessons on how they can best support a healthy pregnancy", do you think a more... quiet approach would be more effective? With the local stigma around men and new-life process, I worry that the fathers wouldn't be open to this.

Maybe if instead of framing the conversation as "how to support a pregnancy", you pitch it as "how to make sure your child is strong and healthy"? These fathers may run at the sound of the word "pregnancy" but stick around to hear about how to raise a healthy child.

Photo of Nicole Seters

HI Justin
Thank you for your comments. We do intend to move in a "low-key" manner and sit in "men-friendly" corners that are private, in order to invite more open conversations.

I think it's a great idea to reframe the question in the manner you suggest...and shift the focus to a strong child. Thank you for sharing!!