The new year has been full of exciting developments for mothers2mothers (m2m) as we continue to provide peer education and support to HIV-positive women across sub-Saharan Africa. In the past three months, m2m’s Mentor Mothers have been celebrated by the South Africa High Commission in London and international news outlets including The Guardian, Huffington Post, and British Medical Journal. mothers2mothers has also been recognized as a leader in the nonprofit sector.
In March 2011, Mpho Mbhele, a m2m Site Coordinator at the Ikhwezi Clinic in Somerset West, South Africa, traveled to London to speak at the South African High Commission. For Mpho, the trip was her first time out of the country, traveling on an airplane, and addressing such a large audience. Mpho drew on the skills she learned at m2m’s Spokespersons Training to share her journey as an HIV-positive woman with a crowd of over 90 people. While in London, Mpho was also featured by The Guardian in a story on m2m. Mpho felt empowered by the opportunity to share her story and the impact m2m has made on her life in a variety of public forums.
m2m was also recently selected as one of two recipients of the prestigious Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership, which recognizes extraordinary accomplishment and bold leadership in the nonprofit sector. m2m was recognized for our unique, scalable grassroots model that is designed to work within existing health infrastructure. m2m’s co-founders, Gene Falk and Robin Smalley, accepted the award on behalf of m2m at an awards ceremony held at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College in March.
mothers2mothers has reached thousands of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Our Mentor Mothers are critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children. A Mentor Mother is a mother living with HIV who is trained and employed as part of a medical team to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and make healthy choices for themselves and their babies.
As of January 2012, m2m had 1457 Mentor Mothers working in 589 sites in 7 African countries, reaching nearly 25,000 new clients every month.
Through our work:
- Clients (pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV) receive support and education from Mentor Mothers and are able to discuss issues they face on a daily basis;
- Clients are offered a safe space that contributes to overcoming stigma and discrimination they face as people living with HIV;
- Positive working relations are established between m2m staff and the facility staff contributing to client retention in the PMTCT cascade
Mbali’s Story of Hope
The Story of Mbali Mkhatjwa, a Mentor Mother in Swaziland
Mbali Mkhatjwa is a 23 year old mother of two children. Mbali lives with her mother in the city of Manzini, in a township called Two Sticks. She had her first baby when she was 18 years old. After she completed her high school education, she fell pregnant with her second child. She began losing weight, and she was confused as to what might be wrong with her. Realizing that not seeking medical care would not help her, she went to RFM Hospital. She was advised to take an HIV test, which came back positive. This is when she made her first contact with m2m, where she received support and encouragement, but she could not come to terms with being HIV-positive.
The nurses had given her two pieces of life-changing news. The first, that she was HIV-positive, and second, that she was pregnant. Out of shock and anger, she decided that she was not going back to the facility, or to any hospital for further care or support. On her return from the facility, she disclosed her HIV status to her younger sister, who assured her that it could not be true. On her mother’s return from work that evening, she also disclosed to her, but also assured her that the nurses had made a mistake. Everyone in the family was in denial. Out of curiosity, Mbali decided to go to KS2 Clinic, where the same result was confirmed.
Mbali decided to confront her boyfriend, who accepted the situation and offered her support, and encouraged her to go to RFM again for a thorough medical checkup. This made her angrier, because as far as she was concerned, she blamed him for all her troubles. She was contemplating committing suicide, or having an abortion, because she knew she could do this in South Africa. On her second visit to RFM, she came into contact with m2m again, and she mentioned what she thought her options were. She was taken by surprise when the Mentor Mother talking to her disclosed her status, and walked her through what she went through as a positive pregnant woman. Mbali could not believe that PMTCT worked, as she had thought that it was better for her to die than to bring a baby into the world who would be sick, or alternatively, abort the baby and die alone. Through gentle and warm support from m2m, she agreed to take her CD4, which came back reflecting that it stood at 97 and that she had to be initiated on ART. Mbali was reluctant to begin treatment, but again she was referred to m2m for further psychosocial support.
Mbali’s baby is 18 months old today, and Mbali is now employed as a Mentor Mother after she applied for a position she saw advertised by m2m. Her mission is to help other young women who find themselves in similar situations. She is so grateful to m2m for not only saving her baby, but also for the opportunity to be an ambassador for PMTCT through being employed by m2m. Mbali works with some of the women that guided her through her PMTCT journey.
Your financial support will enable us to continue to provide services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are counting on your financial support, will you join us?