Build simple, loving connections for every child


Embrace is a national movement that advocates for a connected and thriving start to motherhood for every new mother in South Africa. Its vision is based on the understanding that an embraced mother raises a thriving child. To this end, the movement aims to create a powerful network of mothers who support each other and who feel valued, confident and positive about raising their children. Embrace’s mission is to address some of the structural and social dynamics that shape the experience of early motherhood.

The Mamandla Class of 2021 are part of a network of advocates for mothers to effect meaningful change in their communities.

The disconnect

This explains why the project exists

The transition into parenthood is a vulnerable time for women. Between 9% and 21% of new mothers experience depression during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby and it has been shown that a mother’s mental health can negatively affect the development of her child. A sound investment into the support, development and care of mothers during early motherhood is pivotal to unlocking the potential of the child. 

Support from others can help to lower feelings of depression and anxiety in a new mom by boosting her sense of self-esteem and competence as a parent and by making her feel less isolated. Such support has also been shown to reduce preterm births and to increase the length of time women breastfeed, as well as the length of time they breastfeed without introducing any other types of liquids or foods. 

Supporting and advocating for mothers during the critical period of early motherhood provides a solid foundation for families to thrive. Without this crucial investment into the foundational stages of human development, we run the risk of wasting the potential of our nation’s children.


The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental change in life trajectories, starting in the womb.

Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.

The twist in thinking

This explains how the project approaches problems

Embrace exists to ensure that the inextricable link between the well-being of mothers and that of their children is both acknowledged and systemically and socially supported. The role of Embrace is often to provide a ‘working bridge’ between the child-focused advocates and mothers (as well as those representing mothers), reminding society that the mother-child dyad needs to be supported fully for both the child and the mother to thrive.  

To reduce the vulnerability of small children, we need more than just services and programmes targeted at young children – a societal response is needed. It’s vital that mothers are acknowledged and supported in their roles as the number-one champion for their children during their early formative years. Everyday interactions with a caring adult are also vital for developing resilience in children. 

It is for this reason that Embrace is committed to mother-led and mother-first advocacy for imperative culture shifts in the way we think about and prioritise motherhood. We recognise the unique power of mothers’ stories to effect such cultural change. In this regard, Embrace focuses on issues that pertain to early motherhood – that is, birth, breastfeeding and belonging. This is because these are critical transition points in the motherhood journey and represent unique opportunities for society to support and empower mothers to parent to the best of their abilities

The trajectory change

This explains what the project is doing to make a difference

Embrace advocates for the priorities of early motherhood. It elevates the voices and experiences of mothers because it builds community and collective identity. It also makes stakeholders aware of the lived realities of early motherhood in South Africa.

Embrace identifies and capacitates leaders and advocates for mothers to effect meaningful change in their communities. It views itself as an ecosystem builder, seeking out opportunities for network-building to maximise our impact on the lives of mothers.

It aims to facilitate the convening of communities and spaces that are sensitive to the realities and needs of all mothers. This requires creative network-builders to spark possibilities beyond what is currently implemented and imagined for maternal support. In addition, Embrace will model possibilities and opportunities based on what the organisation has heard and learnt.

Embrace aims to broaden the public discourse in a way that demystifies birth and supports the building of a continuum of care for breastfeeding and carefully considers social connectedness within the context of early motherhood.

Visit the Embrace website to learn more:

Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.

We, as mothers and supporters believe:

  • We are diverse but united by our common experiences of motherhood.
  • Every mother can gain from and contribute to the movement.
  • Every mother is the expert on HER child.
  • Every mother is worthy of care and support.
  • We listen first and then speak.
  • We encourage and support rather than judge and criticise.
  • How we do things is as important as what we do.
  • Our voices and stories are powerful.
  • What divides us needs to be diminished.
  • Friendship and community are critical for our mental health and wellbeing.
  • There are many good practices of motherhood, but no single way to mother our children.
  • We acknowledge and value the role of culture and beliefs in the way they shape our motherhood journey.
  • We have the right to celebrate our children and honour our role as mothers of the next generation.

Embrace works with or on ideas that are:

  1. Proudly pro-mother;
  2. Owned by or involve community-embedded leaders or groups;
  3. Directed and informed (or interested in being directed and informed) by the experiences and voices of mothers on the ground;
  4. Focused on matters of importance related to early motherhood priority areas, i.e. birth, breastfeeding and belonging; and
  5. Aiming to drive change for mothers in South Africa.

Helpful Resources

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