M'Ba: Keep Mothers Alive

"For my birth dance, I gonna to squat down deep to the beat of the djembedrum . . .My love will be around me, behind me . . . calling our childto this miracle called life . . ."

M'BA: KEEP MOTHERS ALIVE - Narrated by a public health nurse in poetic style, M'ba: Keep Mothers Alive,is a 10 minute experimental documentary that honors the sacredness of motherhood,  birth, and dance. Like pieces of a global motherhood mosaic, we see and hear the birth stories of three mothers from Mali, West Africa and the United States. The real and resilient stories offer a cross-cultural understanding of the health risks that mothers in the United States and abroad experience. Concrete suggestions on how to make motherhood safer for women locally and globally are offered. 

More needs to be done to make motherhood safer for women. Devastating conditions such as obstetrical fistulaoccur when women have limited access to healthcare. Mothers in developing countries, where 99% of maternal deaths occur, are not the only ones who face health risks. The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized nations. Community involvement is imperative in keeping girls and women healthy.The film calls us to dance in honor of motherhood and take action to improve the health of all women.  


Discussion Guide*

Designed as a classroom pedagogical tool for educators, this film is fitting foruniversity level health and nursing students and everyone who isinterested in improving the health of women.  This discussion guide provides questions to help engage the community in a dialogue about the health of mothers locally and globally.


  • Safe Motherhood
  • International Health
  • Global/Local Solutions

Discussion Questions

  • What in the film stood out for you and why?
  • What does safe motherhood mean to you?

The film tells the story of Hawa, a mother from a rural community in Mali, West Africa and the story Elena, a mother living in San Francisco, California.

  • How might the social conditions of mothers in developing countries be similar to that of mothers in the United States?
  • Can you think of ways being a mother in the U.S. might be different than being a mother in a country where there is universal health care?
  • Dance, birth, and motherhood are themes in the film. How can holistic practices such as yoga and dance contribute to the health of mothers before, during, and after birth?
  • What will you or your partner's birth dance be like?

Obstetric fistula, a birth injury mainly experienced by poor women in developing countries who have limited access to emergency obstetric care such as caesarian sections is briefly motioned in the film.

  • What do you know about obstetric fistula?
  • How can the global community support the prevention of obstetrical fistulas?
  • What roles can nurses and midwives have in promoting the health of mothers around the world?
  • How might you advocate for safe motherhood globally and locally?
  • What can you do to support ONE mother in your community?


Facts & Resources


  • "Every minute, another woman dies from complications of childbirth or pregnancy." (UNFPA, 2009)
  • "Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless and vulnerable."(UNFPA, 2009)
  • "Chances of an African woman dying in pregnancy: 1 in 16.  Chances of a woman in high-income countries dying as a result of a pregnancy: 1 in 2,800" (Campaign to End Fistula, 2009)
  • "Skilled attendance by trained midwives in delivery, backed up by emergency obstetric care, could reduce maternal deaths by about 75%" (UNFPA 2009)
  •  "For every woman who dies, 20 or more experience serious complications like obstetric fistulas." (UNFPA, 2009)
  • "Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labor without prompt medical intervention, usually a Caesarean section. The woman is left with chronic incontinence and, in most cases, a stillborn baby " (Campaign to End Fistula, 2009)
  • "Like maternal mortality, fistula is almost entirely preventable. But at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with the condition, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year." (Campaign to End Fistula, 2009)
  • "The United States ranks behind at least 40 other nations in maternal mortality rates according to the World Health Organization. In 2005, the United States reported 15.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, up from 7.5 per 100,000 in 1982."(The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, 2009)
  • "Black women in the United States have 4 times the risk of dying from childbirth or childbirth related complications. Hispanic women in the United States, similarly, are 1.6 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to die from pregnancy-related causes." (The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, 2009)


  • World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, Maternal Mortality in 2005:estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF,  UNFPA and the World Bank. Geneva. 2007.http://www.who.int/whosis/mme_2005.pdf


Meet the Filmmakers


MELDY HERNANDEZ, MPH, is a public health educator and nurse who dreams of safe motherhood for all women. She uses her 11 years of experience in international maternal/child nursing along with her passion for dance, theater, and poetry to create and elevate the role of creative arts in public health.  She believes that harnessing the gift of the body as anartistic medium to promote health is valuable for educators and public health practitioners alike. Meldy hopes to continue to use film and dramatic arts as pedagogical tools to promote the health of women locally and globally. 

    TRAVIS PAZIN is a Bay Area native and graduating cinema studies major.  When he is not working on a documentary film, he can be found cycling around San Francisco, traveling, or day dreaming of owning a kitten. His favorite color is green. Email him at travis(a)travispazin.com.


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    *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute