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Reflections on 2023 from m2m

As 2023 draws to a close,  mothers2mothers (m2m) President & CEO, Frank Beadle de Palomo, reflects on some of the highlights of the year.

When I look back on all that mothers2mothers (m2m) accomplished in 2023, I am filled with pride—from embarking on new collaborations with long-term partners to launching an award-winning campaign and raising the voices of women on the frontlines on global and national stages. Perhaps most exciting has been watching our ambitious five-year strategic plan, which launched last year, take flight and start delivering results. Thanks to this plan, we are responding to our clients’ changing needs by expanding into new and enhanced programme areas, and deepening our partnerships with governments to strengthen health systems.  

At the heart of our strategic plan are paid, trained, and recognised female community health workers (CHWs) delivering integrated primary health care to end HIV, tackle health challenges that pose greater risks to those living with HIV, and achieve health for all. This is core to everything we do. For 22 years, m2m has demonstrated that mothers living with HIV working as paid, professional CHWs can prevent and treat HIV and related diseases with transformative results for their communities and themselves. Throughout the year, we made the case to decision- and policy-makers at the highest levels that paid female CHWs must be integrated into formal health systems to ensure everyone, everywhere can access essential care. Furthermore, our new impact data demonstrate that our strategic plan can deliver impact at scale and prove what we see every day—when women lead, communities get what they need.  

Here are our top 10 highlights of 2023: 

m2m Spokeswoman Bupe Sinkala

m2m Spokeswoman Bupe Sinkala speaking at UNGA side event.

#1 Taking a Stand on the Global Stage: We took m2m’s work to the world during the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) week in New York in September. Among the highlights—m2m CHWs advocated in multiple high-level spaces for community-led solutions and more paid, professional, and fully digitalised female CHWs to deliver health for all. We were happy to see The New York Timesrun a story on the large number of female CHWs who are poorly paid, or not paid atall, which we put on their radar for UNGA week.

UNGA was the culmination of a year of advocacy efforts, including m2m Spokeswoman and Strategic Project Officer, Babalwa Mbono, delivering a statement on the critical contribution of CHWs on the floor of the UN at the Multi-Stakeholder Hearings in May. Earlier in the year, m2m Spokeswoman and Peer Mentor for Adolescents, Josophine Kalombola from Malawi, made the case for paid CHWs at the 3rd International CHW Symposium in Liberia as a member of the Malawi Ministry of Health’s delegation.  

#2 National Success: In February, we were delighted to participate in the launch of Uganda’s first ever National Community Health Worker (CHW) Strategywhich we helped to shape through our close partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Health. The strategy recognises the potential of paid and supported CHWs to achieve universal health coverage by delivering integrated primary health care in their communities.  

Culinary training Metuge District

WFP programme in Mozambique.

#3 Enhanced Programme Areas: m2m was selected to participate in the World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator Sprint Programme in Mozambique, to improve nutrition and food security for thousands of people with (or at risk of) key vulnerabilities for malnutrition—like HIV and tuberculosis—in Cabo Delgado province. We also expanded our Project AMPLIFY initiative in Western Cape, South Africa, to address the unique health needs of men who have sex with other men (MSM).  

#4 New Strategy, Notable Results: We were proud to share the results of our 2022 Annual Programme Review, which reflect the first year of implementation of our ambitious five-year strategic plan. The report showed that we achieved continued impact at scale, contributed to the global goal of ending HIV/AIDS, improved health and opportunity for women and families, and made notable progress in addressing health challenges that pose greater risks to individuals living with HIV, such as tuberculosis, cervical cancer, and malaria. 

m2m Spokeswomen Esther Mamba

m2m Spokeswomen Esther Mamba at Women Deliver.

#5 Taking the Spotlight: m2m co-hosted a side event with long-time partner Cartier Philanthropy at Women Deliver 2023—one of the largest multi-sectoral convenings for gender equality, which took place in Kigali, Rwanda in July. The event featured powerful accounts from individuals who are dedicated to making gender equality a reality by 2030, including m2m Spokeswoman Esther Mamba from South Africa. Many attendees, including Co-Impact, noted the powerful and thought-provoking content of the session. 

#6 The Power of Partnership: m2m embarked on a collaboration with another long-standing partner—hosting three MSD employees as part of the MSD Richard T. Clark (RTC) Fellowship for Global Health, a three-month pro bono programme designed to harness the skills and talents of MSD employees worldwide. We also celebrated a decade-long partnership with Gucci at two lovely events hosted by Gucci at their stores in New York City and Los Angeles. m2m’s collaboration with Gucci spans a decade and includes a partnership with Gucci CHIME, which was founded by Gucci in 2013 to convene, unite, and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality. 

#7 Addressing the Impact of Extreme Weather Events: Our peer-based model proved its effectiveness in responding to extreme weather events. Earlier this year, Cyclone Freddy had a significant impact on health and livelihoods in the Mulanje region of Malawi. Working in a post-disaster setting, 58 Mentor Mothers played a crucial role in identifying vulnerable populations, ensuring they received the necessary health services, and were reintegrated into care. Among m2m’s notable results: 6,960 pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV went back on treatment; 3,264 HIV-exposed children and adolescents were identified and referred for appropriate services; and 6,670 parents and caregivers were supported to ensure their children accessed critical child health services. With the climate crisis making extreme weather events more likely, we have proven our ability to help respond.    

Don't Buy It graphic#8 Award-Winning Campaign: m2m partnered with U.K.-based creative agency, RAPP, to develop a tactic that tackles head-on dangerous myths and misinformation plaguing adolescent girls and young women in Ghana. The result was Don’t Buy It., a market stall in Accra’s busiest market for one week that sold “nothing but the truth.” The stall carried popular products such as shower gels and sunglasses, but with a twist—none were for sale, and all carried myth-busting messages. m2m Mentor Mothers hosted the stall, providing advice to their peers and a safe place to talk; and there was even a place set aside for private, on-the-spot HIV testing, and confidential counselling. In just seven days, the stall’s myth-busting messages reached hundreds of thousands of people in Ghana—and the campaign recently received two awards from the U.K. Data and Marketing Association, Gold in the Brand Experience category and Silver in the Health and Wellness category.

Mothers' Ball in London.

Mothers’ Ball in London.

#9 The Power of Mothers: We capped off the year with The Inaugural Mothers’ Ball, an unapologetic celebration of the power of mothers, showcasing the rich diversity, creativity, and excellence of the African continent. Taking place at the V&A South Kensington in London, the event was hosted by m2m Ambassador Sabrina Elba, and featured performances by The Kingdom Choir, Grace Carter, and DJ Cuppy. With around 400 people in attendance, it was a triumphant end to the year and a fantastic platform on which to build as it becomes an annual event. 

#10 You: We couldn’t have achieved any of this without the tremendous support of our new and long-standing donors, supporters, and partners.  We are incredibly grateful for your support and for joining us to create a fairer, healthier future for everyone, everywhere. 

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