Fatoumata Guindo, 55, is a dynamic and energetic teacher who’s constantly on the move. She has become one of the most trusted women in her community of Bandiagara, which a modest town of traders, herders and farmers located in the increasingly volatile central region of Mopti in Mali.
Trained on key family practices, Fatoumata brings together women of different backgrounds to provide information on caring for the youngest children. Her advice spans subjects such as prenatal consultations, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, play and parental communication, vaccination and hygiene. She uses simple visual aids and demonstrations to convey her messages during group sessions in a courtyard with other women. She also shows women how to make simple toys, using locally available materials, to help play with their youngest children.
“Our advice on breastfeeding, immunization and hygiene has saved lives.”Fatoumata Guindo
Thanks to the many awareness-raising activities she conducts and her pedagogical approach to teaching and learning, Fatoumata has become very influential. For her, fulfilling her role in helping her community has been a huge source of pride, but also a personally empowering one. “My greatest source of satisfaction is to have been able to make many people understand key family practices,” she says. “And my role as a Mama Yeleen has also earned me respect and acknowledgment.”
Fatoumata’s advice is in great demand by women, often for intimate family matters. Beyond providing essential advice on childcare, she has already helped to reconcile several households who were experiencing family tensions.
The work of Fatoumata and other Mama Yeleen is crucial in a country like Mali, where one in ten children never see their fifth birthday and where only one in three women practice exclusive breastfeeding. With H&M Foundation’s support, UNICEF has trained Mama Yeleen like Fatoumata across four regions of Mali to improve early childhood development, including child health, nutrition, cognitive development and learning.
Fatoumata says the work of the Maman Yeleen has helped families prevent common childhood diseases and avoid costly and time-consuming trips to the doctor. “Our advice on breastfeeding, immunization and hygiene has saved lives,” she says with pride. “The doctor is already receiving fewer cases of sick children in our community health center.”
Her greatest wish is for every woman to become independent and to be able to pursue her own activities.
About Early Childhood Development
The right food, stimulation and care – or eat, play, love – are essential to a baby’s brain development in the first 1,000 days of life. That’s why UNICEF and the H&M Foundation believe in investing in the first years of a child’s life. Giving children the best start in life not only helps children reach their potential, it helps communities thrive.