This month, the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project had a series of exciting highlights related to deepening analysis of women’s maternal experiences and improving gender equality in Inhambane province, Mozambique.
In two separate reflection sessions with provincial- and district-level health managers, the project presented mid-study findings from our qualitative research on maternal experiences. Both sessions generated thoughtful, productive discussions about what needs to improve within the health system to improve women’s experiences during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum, and to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Baseline results from the Maternal Experiences Study (MES) itself, led by a team of researchers in both Canada and Mozambique including Dr. Sylvia Abonyi (PI on the research), Denise Kouri (Project Strategic Advisor) and Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine (PI on the overall project), were very warmly received by both participant groups. The findings were based on our 1st round of interviews with 50 women from 10 partner communities across the 5 target districts. They provided a socio-demographic picture of the women involved in the study as well as insightful illustration of their lives as related to a range of themes: family and marital relationships, income sources, education, pregnancy experiences, support and access to care during pregnancy and delivery, community involvement and hopes for the future. The 2nd round of follow-up interviews, with a smaller group of 16 women, took place in just prior to COVID-19 and helped inform the presentations made this month. The 3rd and final round of follow-up interviews, with 20 women, are getting under way now. Session participants noted that, although the severe difficulties outlined by the women’s stories were unfortunately not surprising, the fact of having evidence-based information to document those problems will help make changes within the health system to work more effectively with communities. The discussions themselves served as policy dialogues on the need for strengthened humanized – patient-centered, gender sensitive – care in Mozambique, so it was especially important that the research acted a channel for women’s own voices to be heard and considered in those discussions.
In addition, the project hosted long-time project collaborator and gender and human rights specialist, Terezinha da Silva, to facilitate reflection sessions with the project management and community engagement staff on the project’s gender strategy, success in reducing maternal and newborn mortality through increased gender equality, and what to focus on to strengthen women’s sexual and reproductive rights moving forward. Terezinha’s work included community sessions with the youth committee and health committee in Marrange, Homoine and a visit to the newly-built maternity in Chizapela, Homoine. The week-long experience exchange resulted in renewed strategies for combatting early marriage and pregnancy, in particular, and maintaining women’s strong community leadership.
Finally, on Sept. 28, International Safe Abortion Day, the project co-hosted a roundtable discussion with our primary partner, DPSI (the Inhambane Provincial Health Directorate) on access to safe abortions. The discussion focused on Mozambique’s safe abortion law and disseminating key messages to communities to combat unsafe abortions and ensure all women and their families know their rights and how to access safe abortion care (also see our Sept. 28 blog).