There’s been a lot of action in northern Uganda lately. But in an area still recovering from the government’s 21-year war with the Lord’ Resistance Army, this is, for once, a welcome kind of drama.
Women in Mercy Corps’ Mother Care Groups (MCGs) are performing vibrant songs, dances and plays to educate villages about healthy practices that promote strong and secure communities. And their enthusiasm is contagious. Recent presentations have drawn hundreds of onlookers in Kitgum and Pader districts, where they’ve learned about prenatal care, breastfeeding and nutrition, immunizations, and HIV/AIDS and other illness prevention.
The activites are part of our Healthy Practices, Strong Communities (HPSC) program, which restores livelihoods and agricultural development — in addition to maternal/child health support — for refugees returning to Uganda and reestablishing their lives since the tenuous 2006 peace settlement with the LRA. For the past three years, the program has reached deep into communities, training women to spread health lessons from within.
The MCGs are made up of Leader Mothers identified by Mercy Corps Village Health Teams. Each woman monitors 10 households in her village, visiting the families twice a month to mentor pregnant and breastfeeding women and mothers of children under five. The Leader Mothers receive ongoing training from our Health and Nutrition Officers, as well as bicycles to more easily traverse the long distances between homes.
Grateful to have their lives back, these women are eager to help their communities thrive. It’s an important role, and one of honor that the women relish. “I was asked by my community to be of service so I could not refuse, and now after seeing the good Mother Care Groups do, the program must continue,” one Leader Mother said.
Indeed, it was the Leader Mothers who spearheaded these new performances. Seeing the opportunity to educate even more people, they asked for training on dance and drama techniques to bring their lessons to life at public gatherings.
Now, more mothers — and fathers and children themselves — are learning about which nutrients are essential to healthy growth, how to maintain proper sanitation, what are best breastfeeding practices, and so much more. Soon our teams will add education about family planning, health radio shows, and children’s clubs to help develop even healthier — and stronger — communities