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Promoting a healthy lifestyle for Soweto’s moms-to-be

SOWETO – A network of social franchises has sprung up across Soweto to meet the area’s needs for decent prenatal classes in the townships. Story by Pamela Mkhize.

The franchises are known as Flourish and seek to offer universal access to mom and baby classes that support and empower mothers through the critical first 1000 days of their child’s life.Flourish is part of Grow Great, a multifunder-initiated campaign aimed at promoting a stunting free future.

Franchisee of Flourish Soweto, Tabea Nong who hails from Diepkloof describes herself as a community builder and a philanthropist in education, youth and social development, health as well as life skills for women and children. She is also a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) life coach and an inspirational speaker, focusing on personal development.

“I believe the world could be a better place if everyone understood that our core duty/function in this world is to contribute positively to the greater good of humanity, by recognising our potential and continue developing it and using it to be the change we want to see and experience in the world around us.”

Townships

Flourish classes operate in townships around Soweto, including Kagiso, Phiri, Emdeni, Meadowlands and Diepkloof – each with a group of 10 moms-to-be attending over 10 weeks.

Nong says what inspired these parental classes is the loneliness of motherhood, particularly those who are pregnant for the first time and who have little support.

“Pregnant moms who join the classes benefit from peer support and shared experiences, while also keeping up to date with the best ways to raise healthy babies. I understand that change can come to my community if I start doing things differently myself, and being part of the Flourish social franchise has given me the platform to bring about that positive change,” said Nong.

Photo: Pamela Mkhize/Health-e.

“The first 1000 days of a child’s life is an opportunity to establish a foundation for their academic success, health and general well-being. However, it is also a period when they are vulnerable to stunting. Flourish provides universal access to mom & baby classes (called Flourish visits) that support, celebrate and empower pregnant & new mothers through the critical first 1000 days of a child’s life,” explained Nong.

According to Nong, a healthy lifestyle is balanced and holistic.

“It should include the physical aspects, the mental and emotional state as well as the spiritual side. A human being is a triune being that needs to live a healthy life while taking into consideration the three aspects of self – mind, body and soul.”

One of the biggest challenges the programme is facing is recruiting and creating awareness about the mom and baby classes.

“Reaching out to expectant moms was not as easy as one would have anticipated because pregnancy can be quite sensitive and sacred among (generally speaking) the black community. Approaching moms who are expecting and starting a conversation about their pregnancy is not always so easy. So, reaching moms and spreading awareness has been a challenge.”

Mom-to-be, Gloria Makungo says she finds the programme very handy, informative and helpful.

“This programme introduces us to other mothers and we open up to each other and how to deal with things that we face through our pregnancy. Through these sessions, I have learnt a lot of things including tactics on how to deal with stress. Each week we review our progress and it is not only about the wellbeing of our baby, but for us as well because pregnancy is hectic and you feel alone with a lot of changes that you go through. With Flourish I feel that I am part of a community and I am finding this pregnancy fun,” she said.

Because a healthy lifestyle is not something you see often in her community, Nong said joining Flourish Social Franchise has helped her to be a positive influence in driving awareness in her community.

“In the interactions with the moms, I always advocate healthy living and healthy choices in everything they do, not just during pregnancy, but in their lives. Each woman is an individual beyond being a mom. Pregnancy can be lonely, so Flourish helps moms benefit from peer support and their coping mechanisms are enhanced.”

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.

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