Muzalema took part in our 2018 yher Africa program and is the founder of Safe Motherhood Alliance in Zambia.
Muzalema came face to face with the harsh realities that pregnant women in the developing world face during her own pregnancy. As a first-time mother, she had to choose between giving birth from home or risking being turned away from a medical centre because she didn’t have all the items that she was supposed to carry with her.
This led her to establish Safe Motherhood Alliance (SMA) when she was nine months pregnant and to develop the first prototype of their safe birthing kits which she used during her own childbirth. SMA now designs and develops innovative healthcare products for women and girls living in low-income communities and rural areas. They use low-cost and appropriate technology tools that are designed using local materials to meet the unique needs of women in resource poor settings. Their first and core product, a US$10 baby delivery kit, contains essential components recommended by the World Health Organization to reduce risk of infection and at half the cost of key competitors.
SMA’s work is in response to not only Muzalema’s personal experience but also the fact that more than 5 million mothers and infants die annually, with over 50% of these deaths concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. Infection is a leading cause of death for mothers and newborns as resource constrained health facilities struggle to maintain a sterile birthing environment. In Zambia, over 53% of all births take place at home as communities in rural areas have limited access to health care. This limited access is due to the fact that healthcare facilities are geographically too far, or in many cases, are non-existent.
Muzalema and her team, through a partnership with the Ministry of Health, have their kits available in 10 clinics with a goal of being available in all 3500 clinics in the country and reaching 850,000 pregnant women.
Muzalema applied to yher looking for support to grow her social enterprise and to tap into a network of like-minded female entrepreneurs. She won $30,000 in funding from the program which allowed her to make improvements in infrastructure and delivery processes in order to reduce the retail price of their delivery kits, making safe childbirth even more accessible to women in poverty.
This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Muzalema and her team have also begun leveraging their industry knowledge and networks to develop 3D printed masks for the health sector in Zambia and beyond.
Since attending yher, our growth has been phenomenal and it has enabled us to remain committed to our goal to demonstrate how a social enterprise – one that is built on addressing critical challenges faced by the world’s most vulnerable women – can be sustainable and scalable. The yher peer review funding has assisted us to define ourselves through industry leadership, equitable team structure and innovative partnerships.
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