Written by Geetanjali Jha Chakroborty
Pregnancy for Indian women from low income households, while a joyful experience, often leads to devastating experiences given the lack of basic information that would-be mothers require.
A woman dies in child birth every eight minutes in India. More than 300,000 infants in India died on the day of their birth in 2011, an astounding 29% of global share. The inequality across rich and poor in new born mortality rate is truly worrisome with double the number of babies dying among the poorer populations. mMitra is an attempt to address this by providing women with timed and targeted information throughout their pregnancy, delivery and till their child reaches his first birthday.
ARMMAN, in collaboration with MAMA launched the mMitra service for the women of India on 13th November 2014. mMitra is a unique programme that sends out “automated, customized, timed and targeted voice calls” to pregnant women and mothers of infants. The twice weekly voice calls correspond to the subscribers’ stage of pregnancy or age of their children and are sent directly to their mobile phones. This is a free service and the women can choose to receive the calls in their preferred time slot and language. mMitra aims to reach 500,000 women in Mumbai itself and 1 million women in India, in the coming three years through partnerships with Hospitals, NGOS and Government machinery.
ARMMAN is a non-profit organization that leverages technology to design and implement sustainable interventions to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality and morbidity in underprivileged urban and rural communities. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) delivers vital health information via mobile phones to new and expectant mothers living in poverty throughout developing countries. It is a public private partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter.
The heart-rending stories narrated by some of our subscribers during the process of organising the launch and at interactions organised for our guests at the site visits, validate the dire need for the mMitra service and the impact it is already creating in lives.
We met Madhu, who had eloped from her village with a man who promised her marriage but abandoned her soon after. She is pregnant and all alone in Mumbai with no family or husband. mMitra calls are her only source of information and her only “guide and friend”.
While making a film on mMitra for the launch, we came across two remarkable young women, Jyoti and Ayesha. Ayesha is 18 yrs old and a first time mother. She eagerly awaits her twice weekly calls from mMitra for ‘information’ relating to pregnancy. Jyoti is a mother to a toddler and is expecting her second child. Looking at her content and happy expression and hearing her articulate her thoughts, made me realize that access to information can be life changing and empowering. In Jyoti’s words, “My son would fall sick again and again in his first year. If I had the information that I have now, my child would have been healthier. mMitra has helped me make right choices for my family and myself.” She looks forward to the calls along with her husband and sister in law. To meet Jyoti and Ayesha, watch the mMitra film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5NepnL8vFA.