Mah Diarra lives in Lassa, a small community that feels remote, even though it sits in the hills on the western edge of Bamako, Mali’s bustling capital.
Last year, nearly four months into her pregnancy, Mah hadn’t yet seen a doctor because she couldn’t afford to. One day, a friend told her about Mali Health’s new SHARE savings groups, which help women during their pregnancy. SHARE, or Savings for Health And Reproductive Empowerment, helps mothers to save for all the costs associated with their pregnancy, including prenatal care and delivery at a community health center.
Mah met with one of Mali Health’s animateurs, the community members who support and coordinate the savings groups. She enrolled and immediately started to save money to pay for the costs associated with her maternal care and delivery.
Women in savings groups save and lend their own money for group activities. Mali Health encourages them to use funds for health purposes and offers health education sessions at each meeting. Women learn about the most common and dangerous diseases, including malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and respiratory infections, plus effective techniques to prevent them. They learn about the benefits of prenatal and postnatal care, and of giving birth in a health center. Women also learn financial management skills that can help them to build greater financial independence.
Today, Mah is the mother of a beautiful, happy little girl. Mah knows that her daughter’s health is due in part to her ability to receive all her maternal care. She was relieved to deliver safely in the health center, but knows most women do not have the same experience. In fact, only 56% of women in Mali have a skilled attendant when giving birth.
Because of her experience, Mah now reaches out to other women in Lassa, encouraging them to enroll in SHARE. She speaks proudly of her experience, with her daughter at her side:
Following my prenatal care sessions with a doctor, I carried my pregnancy to term in good health! Before I joined my savings group, I had no knowledge about my pregnancy, the danger signs, and everything else that comes along with motherhood.
I joined the SHARE group four months into my pregnancy. The doctors advised me to attend all of my prenatal care (ANC) visits. With the help of other women in my group, I saved 750 CFA (~$1.30) every other week to help pay for my care. Meanwhile, Mali Health gave me a grant of 5,000 CFA (approximately $8-9 USD) to support my delivery in a health center.
These many benefits of the Savings for Health program allow all of us to be satisfied, happy mothers.