Mothers Saving Mothers

Posted on May 13, 2012, by Michelle Chaplin, BRAC


Mother's Day is about being thankful for one of the most important women in your life: your mother. She gave birth to you (one of the most dangerous things a woman can do), fed you, clothed you, and made sure you went to school (and did your homework), among many other things.

Even before becoming a mother herself, Sweety Akter was intimately aware of the dangers of childbirth – both for mother and child. Sweety’s younger brother died soon after he was born because of complications resulting from childbirth, which the untrained birth assistant was unable to address.

“From my childhood I have always heard about the death of my brother. My poor mother always remembers him and I see tears in her eyes every time she talks about him,” says Sweety. “Whenever I heard this and similar stories, I longed to do something for such mothers and to save the lives of their young babies.”

Today, the story of Sweety’s brother is fairly uncommon in Bangladesh, where newborns have a 95% chance of surviving, and even making it to their fifth birthday. Go back 20 years, though, and one out of every ten children didn’t make it to their first birthday.

The same progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality, which is half of what it was in the 1990s. However, Bangladesh is still not on track to meet Millennium Development Goal #5, improve maternal health, because most women still give birth in their homes without skilled birth attendants.

Sweety knows this all too well. In 2006, her sister died giving birth.

Later that year, Sweety joined BRAC’s maternal, neonatal and child health initiative, where she received training in basic health care for pregnant women as well as training to be a skilled birth attendant.

“If I can save a single life of a mother or a newborn by providing health care services, it would be a great achievement for me,” says Sweety. “This will make my mother happy, and the souls of my sister and my brother will be pleased.”

Thousands of mothers like Sweety have taken the initiative to become trained health workers to ensure that more mothers live to celebrate Mother’s Day every year. When Bangladesh reaches its maternal health target, it will be because of these women.

Michelle Chaplin is program manager of communications for BRAC USA.

To contribute to BRAC's efforts to combat maternal mortality, consider a donation. Half the Sky is fund-raising for BRAC as well as Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, Every Mother Counts and Fistula Foundation this month on CrowdRise.