Bringing Maternal Care to Remote Communities in Lesotho
In the landlocked country of Lesotho, many remote communities lack access to healthcare and education services. 2021 Fellowship Alumna Mamello Makhele has committed herself to bridging this divide.
Mamello, a registered midwife, has been fighting to bring maternal care, health care, and contraceptives to some of the country’s hardest-to-reach places. Due to the country’s mountainous terrain, she travels on foot or by donkey to ensure women in these communities receive the care they need.
For me to be an advocate, it wasn’t enough to read about these issues but to engage with them and learn about their cultures, their traditions, and the way they think.”Mamello Makhele, 2021 Fellowship Alumna, Lesotho
Supporting Women’s Health and Education in Lesotho
In 2017, a patient suffering complications from an unsafe abortion arrived at the clinic Mamello worked at. Fearing stigma, the young woman’s family didn’t bring her in for care right away, and the woman later died from her complications. Mamello decided then that she wanted to work directly with women across the country to prevent deaths like this one.
“I decided to resign from the hospital and work in these hard-to-reach places… I wanted to understand the issues that women faced on an everyday basis,” Mamello said. “For me to be an advocate, it wasn’t enough to read about these issues but to engage with them and learn about their cultures, their traditions, and the way they think.”
Across Lesotho, women face barriers that prevent them from seeking maternal and other medical care. Some travel over 2 hours to the nearest medical center. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these clinics have closed their doors, shutting off access to essential services for many women.
During her visits to local communities, Mamello provides educational sessions on family planning, contraceptives, and maternal care and promotes community awareness on women’s health, gender-based violence, and HIV. She doesn’t just speak with pregnant women and mothers during her visits, but also engages youth, spouses, and village leaders in these important conversations.
“The idea is to educate men to be better advocates…and also to become better partners.”
Exploring New Opportunities
In 2021, Mamello participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, studying Leadership in Civic Engagement with Appalachian State University. During the Fellowship, she strengthened her network and honed her public speaking skills. Later that year, Mamello was invited to address members of the Parliament of Lesotho on matters related to abortion laws.
She says, “[The Fellowship] also taught us about project management, which was something I was not too familiar with [coming into the program].”
Since participating in the Fellowship, she was selected as one of Bill Gates’ Heroes in the Field.
“It’s still so serene… For people to celebrate women in the rural areas,” Mamello said. “It is a dream come true for me.”
Looking to the future, Mamello is excited to explore emerging opportunities to utilize technology to reach rural communities, such as utilizing drones to deliver health services. In addition, Mamello is currently serving as a board member for Safe Abortion Action Fund in London. This organization provides funding to grassroots movements across different countries to promote abortion rights.
“This means that I will be able to expand my work not only in Lesotho, but also Africa and other continents. It is amazing.”
Written by Daniel Ledin.
Semhal Guesh Berhe
2021 Fellowship Alumna, Ethiopia