May 8, 2014 |

How 4 mothers are making life better for children

These four women's skills, tenacity, and love are making life better for children in their communities.

Because PATH focuses on saving lives and improving health, especially among women and children, we meet many remarkable mothers in the course of our work. No matter their location or circumstances, they share one trait: they are all working to provide a healthy life for the children in their communities.

Savita Rai: adapting tradition to give babies a better chance

Woman in a yellow and pink sari holding a toddler kneels in a dirt yard, before a clothesline.
Savita Rai and her grandson, Aakash. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In the Indian village of Amkoil, mothers-in-law like Savita Rai make the decisions in the house, such as whether a daughter-in-law will give birth in a health center and how she will care for her baby. When her daughter-in-law was pregnant, Savita attended a mother’s group where PATH-mentored teachers provided lifesaving information on childbirth and care. When the time came, she adapted her practices and made sure her grandson was born in a health center. “I’ve learned how to take care of the mother and child,” she says. “Now I’m not so worried about my daughters-in-law or my grandchildren.”

Jane Wamalwa: teaching others about deadly diarrhea

Woman in a blue t-shirt looks directly at the camera. Trees in the background.
Jane Wamalwa, who lost three children to diarrhea, helps other mothers understand how to help keep their children safe. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Jane Wamalwa lost three young children to an illness that is both deadly and easily preventable: diarrheal disease. Jane, and other women in her rural Kenya community, knew little about what caused the illness and less about how to stop it. Selected by village leaders and trained by PATH, Jane is now a community health worker taking the fight against diarrhea door to door in her community. Her deeply personal understanding of the disease’s consequences makes her a powerful ambassador for the tools and techniques that can save children’s lives.

Margaret Simiyu: raising sweet potatoes and healthier kids

Smiling woman poses in a cornfield, holding sweet potatoes.
Margaret Simiyu and examples of her crop of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

Margaret Simiyu was two months pregnant when a health worker dropped by her house to discuss the importance of a healthy diet for her children and herself. By going to the local health clinic for prenatal care, Margaret learned, she could get vouchers to redeem with local farmers for vine cuttings to grow nutrient-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Now, she’s one of nearly 3,000 women in western Kenya participating in an innovative project called Mama SASHA (Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa), a collaborative effort between PATH and the International Potato Center.

Mansa Devi: helping mothers save their babies

Woman in bright red sari poses in front of vibrant green field.
Mansa Devi lost two children before training to help other mothers save their babies. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Mansa Devi jumped at the chance to become an ASHA—the nickname given to village women in India who learn best practices for safe pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care. Two of her four children had died soon after their births, and Mansa longed to help her neighbors avoid the heartache she faced. Now, carrying her bag of tools and supplies, she visits women in their homes before and after a baby is born and runs mothers’ groups to pass on what she knows about saving lives and raising healthy families.

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