Discovery, Motivation and Possibility
Last week I was in Angola, in southern Africa, visiting our field programs. Child mortality rates in Angola are among the highest in the world, with almost one child in five not surviving to age five . The major causes of death for these children include malaria, diarrhea, respiratory infections and neonatal problems compounded by low birth weights.
Since 2007, Episcopal Relief & Development and NetsforLife® have been working with the Anglican Diocese in Angola to reduce childhood illness and mortality through malaria prevention, and clean water and sanitation programs. In January 2011 Episcopal Relief & Development also teamed up with the Angolan União das Mães (Mothers’ Union) on a new child survival approach that focuses not simply on education, but also on creating sustainable behavior change.
This approach is based on a belief that real behavior change, that moves people from reflection to action, requires a combination of discovery, motivation and possibility.
- Discovery of information from a person’s own experiences, reflections and participation in discussion.
- Motivation to act from her or his internal examination of what is important and why.
- Possibility to create change from the person’s recognition and respect for the resources (e.g., ideas, skills, relationships, and materials) he or she already has.
I met a woman named Inês who belongs to a learning group in Viana, a municipality of Luanda, where sprawling informal urban settlements grew during Angola’s 27-year-long civil war. Given the lack of formal water and sanitation systems in these areas, good hygiene and potable water are major challenges. Inês and her group have not only discovered together the importance of treating their drinking water to prevent diarrhea and other waterborne diseases, but they are also taking action to start a group savings and revolving fund initiative to support their purchase of water-treatment products.
The Mothers’ Union is mobilizing its members to create such learning groups, typically including seven to 10 women from their neighborhood or wider community. These groups become the place where women discuss, debate and discover important child and public health issues, become motivated to take action, and then work together to affirm and employ their existing resources to create possibilities and change.
Tammi Mott is a Program Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development.
Photo: Inês (center) shows her children, Agusto and Marlene, how to stay healthier through proper hand washing.