Date: 2012 - 2017
Team: Ann Pettifor, Georgia Lee, Jordan Chatwin, Lilly Kessler, Mark Kaigwa, Maz Kessler
Areas of expertise: Advocacy, Design

Ai has played a leading role in developing the public-facing side of a programme to save the lives of African mothers and babies – MamaYe!

The project aims to improve maternal and newborn survival in six countries in Africa (Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Tanzania.)

MamaYe is led in-country by teams of African experts, and supported by an international consortium of experts based at UCL, University of Southampton, University of Aberdeen, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The programme is funded by UKAID, and led by Louise Hulton of Options – the sexual and reproductive health consultancy.

Ai has been responsible for the development of an advocacy, communications and digital strategy, identity, naming, design and build of web platforms. Ai also continues to work on the all elements of MamaYe!

On 18th February, 2013 MamaYe launched across five countries with events that called on the public to ‘give blood to save a mama’ or ‘make our clinics safe’ in 5 countries. Along with the physical launch MamaYe also launched six websites, one for each of the countries, and one a ‘parent site’.

The websites highlight news, evidence, resources, stories and events organized by African-led teams in the six countries.


The Context

As our contribution to this project, we began by scoping and assessing public opinion in the six countries. Because we did not have funds for full opinion surveys, we had to rely on our own intelligence-gathering on visits to all the countries. We talked to a wide range of African communications professionals, experts in the field, activists, representatives of faith, women’s and professional organisations etc.- and observed what was happening in public spaces, to discover whether maternal and newborn survival featured there.

We learnt first, that despite its high level of priority at international policy-making level, and despite the activities of dedicated MNH experts and NGOs, maternal and newborn survival was not an audible part of the public conversation in all of the six African countries.

Second, we became aware of a widespread assumption across the six countries: that death in childbirth was ‘natural’ to quote an educated and sophisticated woman we met in Tanzania, or that alternatively it was “God’s will”. This widespread resignation and fatalism in relation to childbirth we concluded, is one of the biggest challenges that policy-makers face in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in Africa. Resignation lowers expectations, and inhibits citizens from expecting and demanding improvements in the care of mothers and newborns.

Ai subsequently developed an advocacy strategy based on the evidence assembled by consortium partners, and which aims to use effective communication to demonstrate that with quality care, especially emergency obstetric care, many more women and newborns can survive childbirth.

The MamaYe strategy aims to actively engage the African public in the issue of maternal survival, and to provide examples of actions that could save lives.

Reframing the Issue

We know from George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley that:

“Frames are the mental structures that shape the way we view the world…they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. …To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.” (Our emphasis)

From: ‘Don’t think of an Elephant’ by George Lakoff. Published in 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont)

In developing strategy and associated communications for MamaYe, Ai worked hard at re-framing the issue: away from fatalism, despair and mortality and towards solutions, success and higher expectations of survival.

In developing both the advocacy and digital strategy Ai worked closely with the African experts in MamaYe teams in each country to tailor messages and “asks” of the campaign to suit each country’s context.

Central to the communications strategy is the task of identifying those who use evidence-based solutions to ensure the survival of women and their newborns – in order to showcase and celebrate both the solutions and the achievements of those who contribute to survival. We are particularly concerned to demonstrate and communicate to the African public that much can be done by any committed person to save lives, by: e.g. encouraging women to visit ante-natal clinics, taxi-ing a woman to hospital in an emergency; or giving blood.

Learn more about the story behind the ‘give blood to save a mama’ MamaYe campaign action >

The re-framing seeks to raise expectations of survival, and to arm ordinary citizens with evidence, information, actions and above all, the confidence that will enable them to expect and demand higher standards of care for mothers and newborns.


The MamaYe Identity

Ai started by working with Nairobi based design team ARK and Mark Kaigwa to come up with the MamaYe name and initial logo.

We knew that we needed an identity that resonated with the African public, that reflected the concept that motherhood was at the heart of the community, and that invited a new positive frame on the issue of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

The ARK team tested a wide range of invented names in all 5 of the countries that MamaYe would have a public face to gauge responses of the public (from the marketplace in Abuja to the Northern rural districts of Sierra Leone). MamaYe emerged as the winner – and the name that didn’t have negative associations in any of the (many) local languages.

The logo was designed to reflect the importance of mama, baby (orange) and community (teal) in pulling together for solutions and survival. It was deliberately clear, clean and simple – because we knew it would need to be reproduced on web, digital, mobile assets – but also handpainted onto buildings, copied by illustrators who don’t have access to software but work with paper and pen.

Ai’s lead designer Jordan took the MamaYe identity and ran with it. In collaboration with the Ai team and the MamaYe in-country experts Jordan has handled all web design and created a body of creative assets.

At the core of the design approach was the need to always stay true to our framing of the issue. To use the right combination of photography, graphics, colour and typography to reflect an aspirational, innovative and postive future for mamas and babies.

Jordan referenced a lot of pop-culture from Nigeria, Malawi, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. By taking the aesthetic values of pop music and film in our five countries MamaYe raises the aesthetic status of MNCH.

But it was also always key to retain the integrity of the identity- keep it human centred, warm and engaging. And be as clear and direct as possible whilst communicating sound evidence.

The MamaYe creative assets are a work in progress – and in collaboration with country teams Ai continues to work on them.


The Digital Strategy

Ai’s team, led by Ann Pettifor, Georgia Lee, Mark Kaigwa and Jordan Chatwin, worked closely with the six African country teams, and the team at Options and with other distinguished members of the consortium, to produce and design six websites. These will be central to a digital communications strategy that aims to amplify and enhance the advocacy strategy.

MamaYe sites are fully responsive to cater to the huge (and growing) African audience who are smart phone users. MamaYe aims to ride the digital revolution sweeping across Africa; to harness Africa’s telecommunications boom to reach a wide audience, especially Africa’s youth.

Ai is currently collaborating with the Sierra Leone team to develop a mobile ‘communications intervention’ to engage students and Okada (motorbike taxi) drivers via SMS.

For more information about mobile in Africa watch this video >

Advocacy International
51 Clarence Gate Gardens
Glentworth Street
London NW1 6QS

Copyright ©
All rights reserved