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Talking Books Empower Mentor Mothers in Somali Region

Updated: Mar 28


Hodan Abdu, a mentor mother, is profiled in a video about UNICEF Ethiopia's Talking Book pilot project in Somali Region. Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia


UNICEF Ethiopia is piloting Talking Books to deliver community health campaigns


Ethiopia's Somali Region has a population of six million living in under-served rural districts. Remoteness, low literacy, and lack of electricity or internet make it a challenge to reach the most vulnerable populations with quality health education and services. To address this challenge, UNICEF Ethiopia has distributed 500 Amplio Talking Books to community health workers and mentor mothers—women volunteers.


Hodan Abdu, a traditional birth attendant, is one of the women selected for UNICEF's Talking Book pilot project. Hodan is profiled in UNICEF's video, A Day in the Life of a Mentor Mother. In the video, Hodan explains how she uses the Talking Book to share health messages and facilitate discussion with mothers in her community.


"We teach them about maternal and child health, covid-19, and advise women to use the services of health care centers, to get their children vaccinated, and we also teach them about environmental and personal hygiene," Hodan said.



Watch UNICEF Ethiopia's video about Hodan, a mentor mother in Somali Region.

Mentor mother selection process


Olusola Oladeji, a UNICEF health specialist who is leading the project, said his team worked with the kebele administration, community leaders, to identify and select the community health volunteers—all women volunteers.


"We call them 'mentor mothers' and they are respected individuals within the community," Oladeji said.


Ahmed Beshir Hassen, chairman of the Bohe Gelo kebele, agreed.


"The kebele administration selected women who are best fitted for the job. These mothers have been working as traditional birth attendants," Hassen said. "They have abolished backward thinking. They encourage women to use the services of health care facilities. They are working to end FGM."


Training, implementation, and content design


Depending on the geographic spread, each mentor mother is assigned ten to twenty other mothers to visit and support as part of her health campaign. Oladeji said his team used the government's national guidelines to train the women on how to share health information and create awareness, with the Talking Book as a support tool.


With the Talking Book, mentor mothers can deliver consistent and accurate health information.


"Talking Book content is in Somali language, so they can actually use it, Oladeji explained. "This helps to ensure that the message that is passed across is correct and accurate — to address the issue of misinformation."


For UNICEF Ethiopia's community health pilot, Talking Book content includes maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) messages and COVID-19 risk communication messages. Other topics include nutrition, hygiene, and cholera.



Hodan plays a Talking Book health message for a mother in her community.
A mother participates in a Talking Book community health discussion group.

Hodan uses visual aids along with Talking Books. Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia


"I have also gained a lot of knowledge regarding the benefits of health care and covid-19. I am enlightened in many ways. Teaching and encouraging mothers to use health care facilities gives me satisfaction."

The satisfaction of sharing knowledge


"When I do the educational campaigns, the community listens attentively and I deliver what I learned effectively. When I was chosen for this job my good work and efforts were considered. Now I'm fulfilling my responsibility," Hodan said.


"I have also gained a lot of knowledge regarding the benefits of health care and covid-19. I am enlightened in many ways. I believe I am doing good. Teaching and encouraging mothers to use health care facilities gives me satisfaction."


For this project, DFID provided the funding to procure Talking Books. UNICEF also distributed solar lamps, paid for by the Government of Japan, as a nonmonetary incentive to motivate mentor mothers to conduct health campaigns and increase awareness in the community about maternal and child health services.


See a related story about piloting Talking Books in Somali Region.