Mothers of Africa stepping up in a time of need
An interview with Susanne Bohush
by Ned Kelly
In a time where the world is experiencing its biggest health crisis since the 1918 Spanish flu, it would seem plausible to assume that charities have taken a step back, much like many other sectors. They have not stepped back, they have stepped up for those in need. An example of this is Mothers of Africa, which was founded in 2004 by Professor Judith Hall who is a doctor in Cardiff. Mothers of Africa aims to reduce maternal deaths, improve women’s health and help to provide education for girls and boys.
The Mothers of Africa Monaco Association, which was officially founded in December 2017 began after many charity events built traction in Monaco. President of the Association, Susanne Bohush said: “I became interested in 2015 when I helped organise a charity dinner in Menton, just to see what would happen and to get the message out and to start raising awareness. We got more people on board… it just snowballed and that’s what has happened the whole time with this charity. It’s one of the things I love about it, we just meet people and it grows. We decided in 2017 to start Monaco Association, we had a team here and still have a team of six including Professor Hall who is the leader of the charity in the UK.”
The Monaco Association is established to help and support the aims of the Mothers of Africa UK charity, Susanne explained: “As the Monaco Association joined they were building Shiyala Primary School and the charity in the UK had changed their objectives to encompass the ability to build and provide infrastructure. This is now our goal to empower girls and women by education, medical education, and general education. Also by educating the girls we need to also educate the boys so that it is a cultural change as well. The Monaco Association joined when that change had been made, we were into building schools and really providing education.”
Since then, the Monaco Association has significantly helped the community in Zambia by building schools, decreasing class sizes by building new classrooms, building a teacher’s office, supporting holiday schools, and providing equipment and products that the children need.
The coronavirus pandemic has created many obstacles for the Monaco Association, Susanne said: “We would normally be organising events. We would be having bowling evenings, perhaps a dinner, an aperitif, or a sponsored cycle ride. Anything where we get people together basically, we could not do any of that.”
When the pandemic began, many charities had to rethink their strategy and adapt to social distancing measures. The Monaco Association started to brainstorm on how they could continue to provide for those in Zambia, Susanne said: “We applied for some grants from the Welsh government, we received two grants. One of which was used to help in Chongwe District Hospital by educating the doctors there, by giving training on how to deal with the Coronavirus crisis. We provided PPE and soap for them as they have a real shortage, we also provided a lot of signage in the hospital so they could deal with covid and non-covid patients as well. These were all things that came out due to the pandemic.”
Susanne visited Zambia in 2017 and 2019, during her time in Zambia she came across a lady named Noriah Buleya. Noriah has aided Mothers of Africa to spread the word of their aims into the community, Noriah who runs a sewing group has also been very helpful in other ways during the pandemic. Susanne said: “The second grant we used to buy more sewing machines for Noriah and her team so that they could continue. We asked them to make even more sanitary protection for the girls out there, in the schools Evergreen and Shiyala. This involved a pack of five pads in a cotton bag with instructions, she would go in and tell them exactly what they needed to do. This stops the fact that a lot of girls do not go to school, they miss a week of school every month.”
Since the Monaco Association has executed these plans for girls at both Evergreen School and Shiyala Primary School, they have continued to create new and ambitious objectives during the pandemic. Susanne said: “From this, the idea was born to try and do this as a project for the whole of Chongwe. We have recently been in touch with the District Education Board, they are very happy to continue working with us in this vein. We are now looking at providing sanitary protection for the whole of Chongwe, for all the girls of menstruating age which is over 16,000 girls over the next 18 months to 2 years, because of the pandemic this is one of our latest projects.”
Susanne added: “We have been given some samples of OrganiCup which is a natural product that the girls can use for hygiene. We have those but we need to try and get them out there, our objective was to try and get some more education into the community on that side of things. Now, with the making of the masks and the making of the sanitary products pending the next trip and the ability to take the OrganiCup out there, then we are going to be able to provide all the girls in Chongwe with something that will help them. That would not have happened without the pandemic in the same way.”
Susanne has been President of the Monaco Association since 2019 and has loved every moment, she said: “The key idea that I have learned is that it is very important to give back. It is lovely to be able to give something back to the community. I have a great team here in Monaco, I have really enjoyed being the President of the Monaco Association. I really believe in the idea of teamwork and bringing out the best of what everybody is good at. We really are a team. I find that really exciting because it just works, it is completely organic.”
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