The Value of Mothers Groups

mothers group in nepal

HealthBridge is working with its partners, International Nepal Fellowship (INF), Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and HealthBridge Vietnam, in collaboration with local governments, on a four year maternal, newborn and child health project in Nepal and Vietnam. This project expects to improve utilization of essential health services, increase consumption of nutritious food and supplements among pregnant women, mothers and children, and strengthen the health system by building capacity on a local level. To learn more about the project, please visit our website. This impact story highlights the immense value of Female Community Health Volunteers and Mothers Group meetings as well as the importance of identifying and engaging with decision-makers in the household.

This is Arogya’s story.

Arogya is a young pregnant woman living with her husband and extended family in Banke District, Nepal. With the support of her mother-in-law and the International Nepal Fellowship (INF), Arogya is overcoming barriers to health services and is setting the stage for a healthy pregnancy and newborn.

In Arogya’s community, family members, especially mothers-in-law, are in charge of making health-care decisions for pregnant women, mothers and their children. Pregnant women rely on traditional birthing practices because of a lack of knowledge and limited access to modern healthcare services. Lack of awareness of women’s health issues and danger signs during pregnancy also impact the wellbeing of women in Banke District.

These factors increased Arogya’s risk during pregnancy. When Arogya was 18 years old, she almost died while giving birth. She was in labour for two days and then transferred to a hospital where she recovered. Sadly, her baby was stillborn.

Soon after, Arogya was pregnant again.

INF heard about Arogya and sent a Female Community Health Volunteer, named Dhriti, to visit her family. Upon meeting Arogya, Dhriti noticed that she appeared tired and underweight. Dhriti was concerned for Arogya and knew Arogya’s family made decisions about her health. She requested a family meeting shortly after meeting Arogya.

Dhriti talked with the family about the importance of Arogya eating healthy foods, receiving ante-natal care and delivering her baby in a health facility. She also suggested that Arogya attend monthly Mothers Group meetings. The monthly meetings provide the community and Arogya with a chance to learn about maternal and child health with other pregnant women and new mothers.

At first, Arogya’s family had little trust in Dhriti. Arogya’s mother-in-law, the decision-maker, first opposed the idea of Arogya attending Mothers Group meetings but after many supportive conversations with Dhriti, Arogya’s mother-in-law agreed to go with Arogya to a meeting.

Monthly Mothers Group meetings are a key tool for overcoming cultural barriers related to maternal health in rural Nepal. During the meetings, pregnant women and new mothers learn essential information about child nutrition, safe birthing practices, and pre- and post-natal care. The groups are led by a supportive network of experienced and knowledgeable Female Community Health Volunteers who explain the warning signs of poor health and malnutrition. Participants bring this information home and share it with their families. This knowledge can positively influence health-care decisions made within the family.

As a result of the meetings, Argoya and her mother-in-law learned how to keep Arogya safe and healthy during her pregnancy and labour. The family understands the dangers facing Argoya and are taking steps to ensure a healthy delivery. They have begun to save money to transport Argoya to a health facility when she goes into labour, so she can deliver her second child with a trained birth attendant.

Arogya continues to attend monthly Mothers Group meetings, with her mother-in-law by her side. Arogya’s mother-in-law has become a strong advocate for proper care during pregnancy within the community. She encourages Arogya and other members of the community to attend the Mothers Group meetings. Mothers Groups help to ensure that women in the community are well equipped for healthy and safe pregnancies. 

Arogya and Dhriti’s real names have been changed in this story to protect their privacy.