Healthy brain development starts with positive life experiences in the first 1000 days (conception to 2 years). Ububele's Umdlezane Parent-Infant Programme, in impoverished Alexandra Township in South Africa's Gauteng, supports the mother-infant relationship. Umdlezane is an Nguni term that refers to the time, post-partum, when a mother's relationship with her baby is prioritized by other women in the family, who take care of other concerns in the home so that the mother can focus on her child.
Most South Africans are poor and continue to suffer the emotional trauma of our Apartheid past, as well as the ongoing mental and physical effects of the cycle of poverty. Most poor communities have no access to psychological services. Alexandra, home to 500 000 people in an area of 7.6 km2, where Ububele works, is one such community. In our struggle to transform the country, as envisioned by Nelson Mandela, we have to address these issues.
The project provides support for mother- infant dyads at risk for poor attachment. International research shows that secure attachment between mothers and infants is a powerful determinant of the child's positive life outcomes. The project was first implemented in Alexandra in 2012, in response to the needs identified in mother-baby dyads seen in local clinics. To date over 300 dyads have benefited from the 3 month intervention.
The intention is to influence public policy and hence achieve wider implementation of the project, ultimately country-wide. Our research results already show significantly increased reflective functioning in mothers who have received the intervention. Attachment security is a product of reflective functioning. Infants who have secure attachment are more likely to grow up to be emotionally healthy adults, competent parents and concerned citizens.