Mama Atrato, MamaYe's hero in Ho

  • Mama Atrato, MamaYe's hero in Ho, Ghana
Meet Mama Atrato, Queen Mother of Ho Dome and champion of maternal and newborn health.

Mama Atrato is Queen Mother of Ho Dome in Asogli State of Volta Region. She is described by many health workers as a “reliable” traditional leader. Others refer to her as their role model because she has proven to be genuinely concerned about the welfare of women, especially their health needs.

She describes herself as a “passionate activist for women living everywhere”.

Charity must always begin from where you find yourself. People around you must always benefit from your work if you have something to offer. That is my fervent belief.

Mama Atrato is a perceptible champion whose work on improving the livelihoods of women and children in the Volta region is very well acknowledged by her people.

At 64 and a retiree, Mama Atrato has been deeply involved with community action towards maternal and newborn survival.

She spent 40 years working with the Ghana National Bureau of Investigations (BNI) as an intelligence and security analyst helping to quell threats to Ghana’s sovereignty.

Sharing her experiences with the MamaYe team, Mama Atrato explained how she had worked with various divisions in the security system to ensure that peace and tranquility in the country is maintained. She said:

We put ourselves in harm’s way to safeguard the interest of Ghanaian women and we were highly successful.

Mama Atrato is known in private life as Josephine Dzah and feels she has been “blessed with two children” who also work in diverse ways to improve the lives of citizens.

The respected queen mother has, over the years, instituted creative schemes to motivate social activism towards community empowerment. One of such schemes is the Asogli Maternal Health Prize for health workers.

This award system was designed to recognise health workers who have shown the necessary commitment towards maternal and newborn survival in the Ho Municipality. She explained:

We set out to identify all health workers, especially midwives, who go the extra mile to ensure maternal survival. So we selected the Ho Municipal Hospital where we collated the phone numbers of all pregnant women who had delivered at the hospital in the past one and half years.

Mama Atrato went on to strike a partnership with a popular radio station – Volta Star FM – to reach out to these women using the influence of the airwaves.

With the help of the radio station, we started calling the women who put to bed at the Ho Municipal hospital. This was very effective. We called so many women to share their views on the quality of care they receive at the facility live on radio.

There was a story that made me very hopeful.

A woman we called told us about how one of the midwives took extra care of her and provided the needed medication and support during and after her delivery. She told me that without the help of the midwife, she would have missed the deadline for writing a biennial exam, which she had paid so much money for.

That prompted other women to call into the radio programme to tell stories about how this particular midwife had saved their lives or made their stay at the hospital much more exciting than they expected.

According to Mama Atrato, she liaised with market women of the Ho Municipality to purchase a Kente cloth (One of the most valuable fabrics in Ghana produced by strand weaving) as a prize to the midwife who received the highest number of commendation from the callers.

She organized a ceremony with a team to celebrate the health workers and community activists who are committed to the campaign against maternal and newborn mortality with support from churches in the area.

And, oh! Mama Atrato is all about groundbreaking MNH activism. 

Another interesting activity being championed by Mama Atrato is the establishment of queen-mothers for Maternal Health. She is leading queen-mothers in the area to work with the Ministry of Health to encourage women in remote communities to make scheduled antenatal visits.

The queen mothers in each community are therefore collating numbers of all pregnant women in communities to call and encourage them to report to health facilities.

Beyond her contribution to maternal and newborn health in her region, Mama Atrato with support from the Japan Embassy has built a six-unit classroom block for her community.

Over the years, she has partnered the Indian High Commission to provide solar cookers for the Ho nursing training school. The Indian High Commission has also provided enhanced training modules in India for bead-makers in the community. She stated:

If you are a leader who works for personal aggrandizement, don’t expect to be afloat when trouble strikes. But if everyone around you is safe, you most certainly are safe too. Let’s lead and everyone else will follow.

Mama Atrato chaired the board of the Ho Nursing Training School for eight years before stepping down. She remains a member of the board of the school.

On this day, MamaYe Ghana wants to celebrate Mama Atrato for being a champion and effective voice on maternal and newborn health for her people

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