Empowering women with training and an interest-free micro loan used to start their own small businesses so they can become financially independent and make their own decisions and choices about their life and healthcare.

Maternity Worldwide saves lives in childbirth in developing countries. We use an integrated approach to address the various issues which prevent women and their babies accessing safe and appropriate childbirth. Since our foundation in 2002 we have worked in 11 developing countries and currently have 3 maternal health programmes in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda. We work in partnership with local organisations in areas where the risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is highest and where the need is greatest.

As part of our integrated approach to maternal healthcare programmes we address each of the issues women face when trying to reach safe and appropriate healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth.

The issues, or delays, women experience are; the delay in the decision to seek care (often due to a lack of knowledge about maternal health and the risks to look for during pregnancy or not being the decision maker in the family which is usually the husband), delays in reaching care (due to poor infrastructure or lack of funds for transport) and delays in receiving adequate healthcare (due to a lack of health centres and trained staff).

With the income generation programmes, which are run by established women's groups where information is also provided about maternal and newborn health and money management, we are addressing the delay women face when deciding to seek help.

Quite often, due to gender inequalities, women are not the decision makers in the family and do not have access to the family's finances. By providing women with training and a small interest-free loan they are able to start their own small business enabling them to become financially independent and empowering them to make their own decisions about healthcare, nutrition and education.

The women receive full support and training on possible businesses they could set up, how to save money, how to invest in developing their business and ensuring their businesses are successful and profitable. They repay the loans over time which are then re-lent to someone else making a long-term sustainable difference to the community. The programme will be implemented in 20 villages in the Zomba region of Malawi where we currently have an integrated maternal health programme and have been establishing women's groups.

We have successfully run a similar income generation programme in Ethiopia. On of the first women to receive a loan in Ethiopia, Ebese, received the equivalent value of £11. Ebese used this loan to buy two female sheep to breed with her ram, amazingly both sheep were already pregnant when she bought them! She sold one of the sheep along with her lambs for £55. With this money she bought a donkey to help carry her goods to market in Gimbie (10km away). The other female sheep has continued to breed and produced 30 more lambs over the past 5 years which Ebese has been able to sell.

The training, support and additional income has helped Ebese to; finish building her house, pay for her son's school books and uniform, lend funds to other women in her village to set up their own businesses and has become a role model for other women in her community.

It is of paramount importance to empower women and enable them to become financially independent in order to address gender inequalities and to ensure women can make their own decisions about accessing healthcare during their pregnancy and childbirth.

There are a variety of volunteering and skills-sharing opportunities which we would be delighted to discuss in further detail depending on the availability, skills and interests of the team. A selection of the potential volunteering projects have been explained in the Acts section but we are very open to discussion and exploring different possibilities of partnerships.