It is early afternoon in the village of Kanjuwale at the foot of Nguluyanawambe Mountain in central Malawi. Charlene Chisema, a community mobilization officer, asks a group of local women about best antenatal care (ANC) practices.
“It should start early – in the first months,” said one woman.
“You need four visits,” said another.
“Great!” said Chisema, who works with the USAID Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity. “How many ANC visits did you all have during your last pregnancy?”
Suddenly, a frail woman with a baby on her lap stood up, wiped a tear from her face, and said, “I will not return to ANC.”
The women looked shocked – they were not used to such candid talk.
“Thank you for being honest,” said Chisema, leaning forward with an encouraging smile. “Please tell us why.”
Grace sat back down, wiped her face with her cloth wrap, and explained how the nurse at the local health post has been teasing her for “being pregnant again, while my baby, barely six months old, is still exclusively breastfeeding!”