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ADULT BENEFICIARY: MARIA CARDOSO-MANULOR
Maria Cardoso is the Mothers Group Leader in her village near Fatululik, Timor-Leste.
As part of the Safe Motherhood Program, Maria received training from CARE on safe pregnancies, safe birthing plans, family planning and nutrition. She works closely with local CARE staff to encourage women to access local health clinics for pre- and post-natal care.
At mother’s groups, Maria speaks about health, nutrition and healthy pregnancies. She talks about foods that provide strength and vitamins and gives examples. This way Maria helps overcome barriers that can prevent rural mothers from receiving health information.
Yet Maria faces challenges in changing behaviours. Traditionally, she says, “children are not allowed to eat banana, eggs and fish.’ This contributes to malnutrition. Children’s growth is stunted and their ability to learn impaired, creating a cycle of poverty that’s difficult to break.
Changing mentalities is daunting, but Maria has seen progress in the last two years. “There was a lot of changes in their mentality. A lot of pregnant women are now going to the hospital to deliver their babies. I think people are now more open minded and embracing the new ideas. It is really good for women in particular because with the birth plan it helps them feel free…from the traditional obligations of a mother that can be harmful [such as having to give birth at home].”
Maria’s seen changes men’s attitudes too, with many “getting involved in the program and supporting women during and after pregnancy.”
For Maria, one of the best impacts has been the kitchen gardens. “Many of us think it is important to feed our family from the variety of the food that we grow in the kitchen garden. It also helps us with our finances because we can sell extra vegetables and earn money for other essentials.”