When women are empowered, their children thrive, too: A story of Teresa and Vusi

Mar 04, 2021


Teresa holds her son Vusi as he receives rotavirus vaccine

As a new mother in Zambia, Teresa wasn’t sure why her son kept getting severe diarrhea. In fact, he was so sick – and so often – that she was afraid he would die. 

“It was so severe we didn’t even know what to do. I would say it was near to death. And it really impacted his growth.”

She felt alone, without her family nearby.

“On my firstborn, I was very much away from my relatives,” she said. The nurses and doctors were there to treat and revive him with ORS, but they were no substitute for family. 

Eventually, they all made it through that terrifying time. But when Teresa found herself pregnant again with her second son, Vusi, she knew things had to be different.

 "We did not plan for his birth. He’s quite a blessing.”

Teresa sought out help. She learned about the importance of hygiene and rotavirus vaccines in preventing the diarrhea that had plagued her first son. The health workers trained her, and she appeared at the clinic regularly.

Only this time she came for prevention, not treatment.   

“On this one, at least I have that knowledge. I know what to do.”

Finding out about the rotavirus vaccine, which protects against severe diarrhea, has taken a huge weight off of her shoulders.

“It’s really important to have the vaccine against diarrhea because it’s one of the major problems we have . . . I’m really happy that it has come for us, to help our babies.”

Now one month old, Teresa can focus more on nurturing Vusi for his future, and less on fear of the next illness. She knows he will grow up with his own opinions, personality, hopes and dreams. Yet, she clings to one major dream for him.  

“On my side, I want him to become a responsible man. I want him to become a responsible man, and care for his children the way that I cared for him.”

Mothers that are empowered – by the healthcare system, by their families, and by their communities – pass that strength along to their children. This is just one of the ways that gender impacts child health. Visit our new campaign to explore all of the critical, often overlooked, ways that gender influences the health of mothers, fathers, and their children.