Offered through workshops, this program teaches some the best practices of midwifery and obstetrics from the western world while valuing Achuar motherhood traditions to promote safe birthing practices.
Ensuring the Health and Well-Being of Mothers and Newborns
The Achuar call the Jungle Mamas program Ikiama Nukuri which translates to "Women as Keepers of the Forest". The health and well-being of mothers and newborns is directly connected to the well-being of communities and forests. Thus, the mission of the Jungle Mamas Program is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by empowering women and communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon to ensure safe births, the health, and well-being of the Achuar nation.
“I heard about this workshop over the radio. I live far away and my husband went all over the community to find gas to put into the boat so that I could come here to help women. My husband gave me his blessings to come here.”Master Trainer
The women of the Achuar nation were directly experiencing the rapid effects of cultural change brought on by increased contact with the outside world on their own health and the health of their babies. Through a collective vision, both women and men of the Achuar nation dreamt into existence Ikiama Nukuri, Jungle Mamas, whose goal is to combine the best traditions and practices of midwifery and obstetrics from the western world while simultaneously valuing the best practices of Achuar motherhood in effort to save the lives at birth of mothers and newborns. It is through the collaboration of men and women that the Achuar have been able to help one another and therefore ensure the health and well-being of their people and therefore the Amazon Rainforest.
Empowering Achuar Women and Men Together to Unify Communities
We view empowerment of Achuar women as the unifying element to ensure success on all joint projects, and to build the capacity to become self-sustaining. Therefore, we build the opportunity to nurture women’s leadership into all of our projects. Women’s empowerment cannot be attained without a simultaneous empowerment of men. It is a direct partnership and commitment to work in solidarity with Achuar men that has worked to assure the success and expansion of Jungle Mamas into the greater part of Achuar territory.
Partnership with One Heart World-Wide
In January 2013, Jungle Mamas partnered with One Heart World-Wide, an international organization that has developed an effective, replicable and sustainable model to reduce preventable deaths related to pregnancy and delivery among vulnerable rural populations. OHW works with local communities and local health providers to develop a culturally appropriate Network of Safety around mothers and infants, by raising awareness, teaching good practices, and distributing essential supplies to ensure that mothers and infants survive delivery and the first months of life. It is specifically due to this partnership that the work of Jungle Mamas has been able to increasingly impact more Achuar communities throughout the territory.
“I have attended every birth of all the women in my community. I attended my first birth when I was 11 years old. I do not know how to read or write, so I bring my daughter-in-law as my secretary when I go to visit women. She writes down the words and we keep it in a booklet. She too wants to become a midwife. People in my community are proud of the work we do taking care of the mothers.”Elderly Master Trainer
Health Outreach Provider Training for Community Empowerment
In June 2013, 20 Achuar women from the Provinces of Morona-Santiago and Pastaza were trained in the “Health Outreach Provider training for Community Empowerment” workshop. This workshop was co-facilitated with a team composed of certified nurse-midwives, Achuar workshop facilitators, a perinatal epidemiologist from One Heart World-Wide, and a Nurse-Practitioner/Master Trainer from the indigenous Tarahumara nation and representative of One Heart World-Wide.
Collecting Data to Measure Impact
In November, 2013, we conducted a follow-up workshop with the group. 26 women participated in the workshop, because the group of 20 women brought partners and or interns with them to have help with visiting more women in the communities. As of June 2013, 26 Master Trainers have successfully visited and collected maternal health data on ~150 pregnant women in approximately 60% of the population. This was a landmark workshop because no other program or work with Achuar women has attempted to work in participatory data collection. Meeting directly with these 26 women assured us that we had 1) effectively taught the importance and value of data collection and 2) The women had been collecting accurate data on their prenatal visits.
Distributing Safe Birth Kits
In 2013, we distributed approximately 250 safe birth kits to pregnant women living in approximately 30 communities.
Presenting at the International Confederation of Midwives 4th Regional Conference
In April 2014, Jungle Mamas presented the Achuar model of birth at the International Confederation of Midwives 4th Regional Conference of the Americas in Quito. Our local coordinator, Narcisa Mashienta, and one of our Master Trainers and birth attendants, Isabel Wisum, and Program Director, Robin Fink, were presenters. The team gave two panel discussions: one for the Pre-Congress event on “Natural and Humanized Birth” and another one officially during the conference, as a special invitation presentation. In front of over 400 professional midwives, obstetricians, and doctors, the team presented the birth realities faced by Achuar women living deep in the Amazon, the limitations they are faced with, and how the Jungle Mamas program has been working to address these problems.
Published in Health and Well-Being Magazine
The Jungle Mamas story and work is published in a Latin-American based health and well-being magazine, Aguadulce, or Sweetwater, and its Achuar birth model to be published in White Ribbon Alliance book about birth models for International Women’s Day.