Project Lead(s): Astrid Christoffersen-Deb, Julia Songok
Chamas (‘groups’ in Kiswahili) have a longstanding presence in East Africa as effective networks through which individuals can meet outside the home and pool resources in emergencies.
Building on this cultural tradition, innovators at the University of Toronto, working with Moi University through AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare), developed mother-child groups, called Chama cha Mamatoto, tailored to the needs of mothers and children living in poor rural areas in western Kenya. Upon joining, women pledge to participate in biweekly meetings for one year and uphold the goals of the chama: support each other, save money and become entrepreneurs, and commit to self-selected health and child development goals.
During meetings, women discuss social, health, and child development topics, learn accounting, safekeeping and parenting skills and receive mentorship from their peers to engage in income-generating activities. Facilitated by government community health workers, chamas are a low-cost, self-sustaining and self-managed solution that integrates health, social and financial literacy education with a savings/loans program.
These groups offer the opportunity to introduce a core set of adult capabilities through coaching and training to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty and provide children with the positive environments needed for their growth and development.