Marie Guerline Ostine is a Mother Leader each and every day of the week. Living in Carrefour, one of greater Port-au-Prince’s four districts, Ms. Ostine continually serves her neighbors by providing nutrition and health education through the Haiti Nutrition Security Program (NSP).
As a Mother Leader, Ms. Ostine is responsible for visiting a dozen households twice a month for face-to-face conversations on diet diversity, food groups, and best practices related to nutrition and health for children under five. Ms. Ostine also consults pregnant women in her town. She is committed to visiting her neighbors and having these important conversations, even as it adds to her already strenuous schedule.
An active and well-respected member of her local church congregation, Ms. Ostine carves out time to speak with neighbors starting on Sundays, but she’s also a mother in the tradition sense, with three young boys aged two, six, and ten. She walks her children to school early in the morning—classes start at 7:30 a.m. and end at noon. Her oldest son walks home by himself, but she picks up her younger son and then ensures they both take a bath and eat a hot meal.
After that, however, her day has still just begun. On school days, Ms. Ostine sells clothing but shifts to toiletries over the summer, when demand peaks. She prefers selling toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and soap, because they have a rapid turnover of stock. After 5:00 p.m., Ms. Ostine visits neighbors, using visual education cards to help reinforce her health lessons.
The neighborhood’s name—Carrefour—means “intersection” in French. And true to its name, Carrefour connects people commuting to and from Haiti’s four southern departments. Many Carrefour residents are migrants from the south of the country who are struggling to assimilate to their new community.
But Ms. Ostine isn’t alone in her efforts as both a woman in Haiti and as a Mother Leader.
Women are making a significant contribution to improving the lives of their families in Haiti. They account for 52% of the country’s population, and they are involved in economic activities as well as a variety of social initiatives in their communities. At home, women are responsible for their children’s education, the management of the household, and have their share in various decision-making processes affecting family members and neighbors.
In fact, women are the backbone of NSP. The program depends on its Mother Leaders - these 1,725 women who have completed or are in a 15-month, learning-by-doing training around nutrition and health education. Each Mother Leader takes what she has learned and passes it on to her community.
The Nutrition Security Program—funded through USAID—uses a cascade model to train staff on infant and young children feeding. As part of this, Ms. Ostine spends two Fridays every month attending refresher classes or new training sessions with staff. These other sessions have covered topics such as savings groups, vegetable production, and soon, malnutrition screening.
On Thursdays, Ms. Ostine takes time to worship and fasts along with other members of her church. In Haiti, Tuesdays and Thursdays are often days observed by various religious groups tp worship, fast, or go to home or hospital visits. With the time she has left, Ms. Ostine makes additional home visits, and—going the literal extra mile—she counsels the neighbors of other Mother Leaders who can’t cover their area or have unanswered questions.
Between her three boys, 11 neighbors to visit twice a month, cooking demonstrations, and other community-based activities, Ms. Ostine is an amazing example of every Mother Leader working hard to make her neighborhood in Haiti a stronger, healthier place. No matter which day of the week, these women are transforming their nation, one neighbor at a time.
Edited by: Patrick Bradley