Source: HuffPost Women

In Yoruba culture, pregnant women and mothers are celebrated in a concept that I hold dear to my heart - Alaafia Abiyamo. Alaafia Abiyamo is a belief that motherhood transcends the physical process and is a transformative pre-gestational, social, prenatal, postnatal, spiritual, and community role.

We believe that Alaafia Abiyamo starts from the heart. It begins before birth and continues throughout the lifetime of both mother and child. It does not discriminate based on age, location, circumstance, and income levels. It is a right and concept that every woman - at every stage of life - deserves to access. It is a right and concept that every family and every community - at every stage of life - deserves to access.

It is through the concept of Alaafia Abiyamo that I want to celebrate today’s UN Global Day of Parents. I have long mourned and lamented the state of healthcare for African mothers. Despite the progress made during the Millennium Development Goals on reducing maternal mortality across the world, 800 women still die every day due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth - 99% of these deaths take place in developing countries. We have a long way to go in meeting our mission to save every woman and every child. However, I want to celebrate African mothers today - the hidden strength of African mothers, the enduring love of African mothers, and the unparalleled cultural place that African mothers hold in our societies. I have always believed that mothers have so much to learn from, and teach to, each other, because motherhood is truly, and should be, the universal sisterhood.

In Yoruba society, there is no greater tragedy than the death of a mother in childbirth. There is a saying that a child survives and thrives only at the mother’s will, emphasising the critical role that the mother plays in a child’s welfare. This is backed up by global health statistics as babies whose mothers have died during childbirth have a much greater chance of dying in their first year than those whose mothers survive. If we are to improve maternal health and move towards achieving SDG 3, we must celebrate Alaafia Abiyamo throughout the African continent and the unparalleled role of mothers in families, in societies, and in communities.

Celebrating Alaafia Abiyamo is important because it transforms the prevailing narrative around maternal health in Africa by emphasising the power of African mothers. By giving pregnant women the tools they need for survival - access to skilled midwives, access to clean and safe birthing facilities, access to innovative financing for health insurance, and access to Personal Health Records - we empower them to take up their powerful, transformative role as mothers within communities and families.

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