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Women Helping Women in Rural Madagascar

November 30, 2010

Group of Madagascan women In the 15 years since Hesperian first published A Book for Midwives in 1995, the book has been used all around the world by traditional midwives, as well as by women concerned about their health and the health of their newborn children.

One such group of women lives in the commune of Mahatsinjo in rural Madagascar. They are a small group of traditional midwives, mothers, and young women who have banded together to promote women and children’s health in their remote region.

Their organization, Taratra Reny sy Zaza, faces considerable challenges: many of the women in the area have not finished primary school, and their families rely on small, unofficial landholdings to grow enough food. Many of the women have their first child when they are still in their mid teens, sometimes as young as 14. Caring for large families on few resources takes a great toll on the health of the women in the community, and the nearest hospital is fifteen kilometers away.

Woman looking at Hesperian book and model of pelvis In order to promote women and young children’s health in these communities, Taratra joined forces with a handful of Canadian doctors to create health workshops that help local women better protect their health and the health of their families. One of these workshops, held September 6-9th, 2010, was designed to give midwives crucial training and skills to support women’s health, as well as provide basic health information about prenatal care, breastfeeding, and nutrition to other women in the community.

Using Hesperian’s book A Book for Midwives, and models of a pelvis, placenta, baby, and a uterus that were knitted from yarn, workshop facilitators demonstrated basic prenatal, birth and neonatal care, what to do in emergency situations, and gave participants the chance to have a hands-on learning experience.

Inspired by how this information can truly empower them to improve the health of women and children in the community, Taratra is working to organize a community health center that would serve the communities around Mahatsinjo while helping to improve the existing hospital at Tsinjoarivo, 15 km away. Based on this workshop, Taratra leaders are also planning to hold community conversations about women’s needs and are looking forward to conducting similar workshops in the coming months.

Woman teaching a midwife class Taratra Reny sy Zaza first received Hesperian materials through the Gratis Books Program, which provides books free of charge to grassroots and community groups around the world who cannot afford to buy them, even at discounted prices. A Book for Midwives can be purchased through Hesperian’s online store and downloaded for free from our website.