“Every journey starts with a step “so they say.
This is a remarkable journey of bicycle taxi riders known as Kabanza, in vernacular language. It is easy to say that anyone can do something for their communities but it’s difficult for someone to really do it. The operators have defied all odds to contribute something positively to the community in safe motherhood. These people have changed from using their bicycles as a commercial tool to start saving lives of mothers and babies.
Isaac Chibvundula secretary of Kabanza Activists from Nsungwi in Area 25 Lilongwe said they felt important because as bicycle operators they were being taken as subordinates in their communities and thought they couldn’t contribute anything positive to the country’s development.
He said this after finishing the bicycle ride which took them 7 hours to complete- from Lilongwe to Mchinji in a bid to fundraise for Bwaila District Hospital maternity wing.
“Today all has changed. We are now making a positive contribution to our society and the country at large in helping to reduce deaths of our mothers and babies” he added.
The journey started way back in May 2014 when 30 operatives registered as MamaYe activists “It was not easy to convince friends to join the group. When we were registering as MamaYe activists some of our friends were saying that we are getting into a death trap because MamaYe is there to get blood from us and with all the myths and beliefs of blood donation we were so afraid” he narrates
Ironically soon after registration the activists were invited to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) and Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS) for educational visit by MamaYe for them to appreciate the importance of blood.19 activists made it for the trip.
“When we went to KCH and MBTS some of us were skeptical of the trip. A lot of us were afraid and believed our previous assertion that MamaYe is trying to get blood from us, when we were taken through the laboratory and blood banks some were whispering saying this is it now we will be killed for our blood” He continues with a beaming smile on his face.
“That was the turning point for a lot of us because we learnt a lot from KCH and MBTS after visiting their Laboratory and Blood banks. We learnt about blood collection usage and storage but most important how scarce blood is and how we can help in reducing blood shortage related deaths especially of women and children” He said.
The activists were given MamaYe activists training shortly after the educational trip. “The training was so important to us. We knew that we will not only learn about maternal health but we will also be empowered with knowledge and we need to share the knowledge with our communities. ”he said
25 activists were trained. Isaac said by this time they knew what MamaYe campaign stood for (after the trip KCH and MBTS) and the campaign had started generating interest among the riders knowing that they will be the first people in their business to do such kind of work. It also coincided with the death of one operatives spouse due to loss of blood during delivery.
“After the training we were so determined to do something for our mothers and babies. We wanted people to know that we have learnt and sensitize the communities especially hard to reach areas where people are ignorant of safe motherhood and practice what we have learnt.”He says
So it was no surprise when the bicycle riders said as part of mother’s day they will cycle from Lilongwe to Mchinji in a bid to raise money to assist Bwaila district hospital maternity wing. Clad in MamaYe branded T/Shirts, reflectors and caps 30 activists covered 120 kms from Crossroads Hotel to Mchinji district Hospital. On departure they were seen off by Lilongwe District Health Officer Dr Mwai Mwale who commended the activists’ efforts and appreciated their gesture towards Bwaila district hospital.
The activists had stop overs on 6 main trading Centre’s on the way where they addressed crowds who gathered to look at this spectrum. They explained the reasons behind their trip and encouraged the communities on safe motherhood and develop a culture of donating blood to our hospitals to save lives.
When the band of activists reached Mchinji they were welcomed by the acting District Health Officer of the district Emmanuel Mpoola who thanked the activists for the noble job they are doing reminding them that reduction of maternal deaths should not be left to the health personnel only but everyone should take a part.
Yes the ride for our mothers and babies has just started and it really started with a small simple and single step.