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Better mental health for young Mozambican mothers

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What were the project aims? Catalyst aimed to work with young mothers, families, and service providers, to promote the mental wellbeing for young women during pregnancy and the year after birth.

Where did it take place? Manhiça District, an agricultural town in the south about 1.5 hours from Maputo, the Capital of Mozambique.

Who took part? 23 young pregnant women or new mothers (aged 16-24 years), 12 family members, 19 service providers and 11 staff from the Ministry of Health.

How was the project carried out? Human centred design approach was used. Focus groups, individual interviews and observations were used to understand the needs, priorities, and challenges to mental wellbeing of young mothers. 

We wanted to know what life was like for the young mothers. This included topics like:

  1. How did they feel when they found out they were pregnant?

  2. How did life change?

  3. How did life stay the same?

  4. How did their pregnancy impact their goals and aspirations?

  5. What kind of support did they want during this time?

10 young mothers were given camera’s to share their lives through their own eyes. They were asked to take pictures that represented situations which supported or challenged their wellbeing. Then they shared their photos and stories with the research team and other mothers.

We continued to work with participants to identify key challenges and develop a solution the address them.

What did we find? Young mothers experienced high levels of uncertainty related to living situations, financial status, education, social support. They did not know what to expect during pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Families and the community were identified as an important source of support.

What happened next? The initial idea for the Mama Felíz (Happy Mama) programme was developed.  Mama Feliz is a group-based antenatal course focused on strengthening knowledge about pregnancy, childbirth, child development and mental health. In addition, it includes skill building training to improve positive relationships, problem-solving and parenting. Individual family sessions were added to address wider cultural and gender issues which impact adolescent maternal wellbeing.

It aimed to reduce the risk of poor maternal mental health and gives young mothers hope and skills to make a better life for them and their children by packaging information about the risk and protective factors for maternal mental disorders in a way that appeals to them, their families and service providers.


What did we achieve? The project provided proof that professionals can work with communities to develop solutions to complex challenges. Through understanding the needs and priorities of young mothers we were able to develop a prototype solution that was seen as appropriate and acceptable by young women, their families and service providers.




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