During the 20 years that mothers2mothers (m2m) has employed women to guide other women and their families on the journey to good health, we’ve seen a lot—a lot of progress, a lot of impact, and a lot of hope, where seemingly there was none before. As 2021 (our 20th anniversary) comes to a close, we are unveiling a new multimedia website for you that shows where we’ve been, the changes we’ve seen, and the journey we are on. Please take a look here.
Inspired by our reflections on two decades of creating health and hope and an HIV-free generation, we share 10 highlights from the past 20 years…as well as some thoughts on what lies ahead for m2m. After all—seeing is believing!
1. The power of a simple, but visionary, idea: We have seen how m2m Founder Dr. Mitch Besser’s remarkably simple, but equally visionary, idea—that African mothers living with HIV could serve as peer counsellors to women facing challenges similar to those they experienced—is delivering transformational health and economic empowerment impacts for marginalised women, families, and communities.
2. Impact at scale: Starting with a few frontline staff working at a single site in Cape Town, South Africa, m2m currently operates from hundreds of locations across 10 African nations, with offices located on three continents. Since 2001, we have reached a total of 13.5M individuals with life-changing health services and education.
3. Professionalised, empowered workforce: Our frontline team now numbers more than 1,900, most of whom are women living with HIV. This employment creates vital empowerment opportunities for African women to significantly improve their lives.
4. Taking integrated health services to where our clients need them: m2m’s services are no longer based solely in health facilities. Since 2014, we have also worked door-to-door and in community settings through an integrated model to ensure that clients and their families receive the vital care they need.
5. Combining digital and personal services: m2m’s frontline team not only provides services in-person, but now reaches hundreds of thousands of clients each year by using telephone and smartphone apps carefully integrated with in-person services.
6. Broader vision, broader model: From an original focus on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission HIV, we have widened our services to include reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health. We engage with families at multiple points to ensure that individuals and families not only survive, but thrive.
7. Breaking new ground with clinical services: For the first time, m2m is delivering relevant clinical services as part of our model, in line with global best practice designed to ensure health for all. For example, Mentor Mothers are undertaking HIV testing and checking children’s milestones, and m2m is employing community nurses to provide additional services. Our aim is to support Africa’s critically under-resourced health systems and ensure better outcomes for our clients.
8. Evolution of our frontline staff: While mothers living with HIV still comprise the majority of our frontline workforce, we have also added younger peer mentors to reach adolescents and young adults, and even employ men to provide education and support to other men living with HIV.
9. Beyond HIV: m2m has begun to tackle HIV co-morbidities such as malaria, tuberculosis, hypertension, and diabetes with programmes and educational services that help clients understand how these diseases are closely intertwined and can lead to greater health challenges.
10. Healthier, more equitable world: Tackling inequalities has been at the root and core of what m2m was born to do. Over the last 20 years, we have consistently strived to reach the most vulnerable and marginalised communities to ensure that everyone has access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, no matter where they live. We strongly believe that through our compassion, our innovation, and our drive for impact—and the fact that our solution is rooted in and driven by communities most vulnerable to health challenges—we can help make Universal Health Coverage a reality. That’s a 20-year dream that we can hardly wait to get to.
To find out more about our first 20 years, and our hopes and plans for the next 20, from people who have shaped and been touched by m2m during our journey, click here.When you see where we have been, the impact we have made, and where we are headed, hopefully you, too, will believe that when women lead, communities get what they need.