In Sierra Leone, one in 17 mothers face a lifetime risk of dying while giving birth.
This is one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the UN’s most recent data
Nearly half of these mothers are girls under 19 years of age.
At Restless Development, we are supporting a generation of young leaders to tackle this heartbreaking injustice head on.
184 young men and women are working side by side in 92 communities across Sierra Leone; making sure pregnant women and mothers access the treatment they need and that girls remain in school and out of early pregnancies and marriages.
Fatmata, 23, Saving Lives volunteer, Blama, Sierra Leone.
“When we first started work, we met with all of the key stakeholders in Blama chiefdom, including the chief and the mammy queen, and we told them our mission and vision. They appreciated us and we were welcomed.
“We focused on convening a regular community network meeting with the community and those in charge of the community health centre. The idea was to create a space to share health messages with mothers and pregnant women who wouldn’t normally go for treatment and also to get everyone together to openly discuss the issues affecting them.
“We do this alongside school to school, house to house, and village to village visitation to get the consent of the people, to ask questions about the challenges they face and sensitise on things like the hazards of early pregnancy and early marriage and the importance of going to the health centre.
“But as we now have a pandemic in our midst, we are adapting our work to tackle COVID-19 too.
“Our focus is to give out life saving messages on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from household to household and from community to community.
Fatmata and other volunteers have received training to equip them to move safely from house to house, sharing advice on the importance of good hygiene, how to socially distance, and what to do if someone in their household shows symptoms.
“We hope to combat this pandemic through community mobilisation just like we did with Ebola.
When young Sierra Leoneans mobilised their communities during the Ebola outbreak it turned the tide on the virus. They helped communities own and manage their response to the virus. Making sure the messages of authorities were understood and that they reached people where they were, using communication channels that worked for them.
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Meanwhile, Fatmata remains committed as ever to supporting women and girls in her country.
“There are so many teenage pregnancies, and a lot of domestic violence and child abuse. I have seen my friends stop their education and get married so young, and it makes me feel so sad. But I have challenged myself to make a difference. I want to mount the flag of young people in my country and I will keep pushing until I succeed. I want to make sure that women, who are considered weaker than men, can stand tall in public and express themselves.
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Find out more about how we work with young people.