Melissa Muchaneta, who grew up in Zimbabwe, is in the Netherlands at the cradle of baby-carrying and, in particular, torsobabywearing, The Art of Ethnic Carrying Culture in which the mother carries her baby in a sling on her back. With her company Bereka, she sells baby wraps and offers courses and workshops. Nowadays, nobody looks up when a mother in the Netherlands carries her child in a cloth on her back. That was quite different when Melissa Muchaneta took to the streets with her newborn daughter in 2008. She received comments that she probably couldn’t afford a pram and that she was not taking good care of her child. She also had to answer many questions about whether it is healthy for the child. ,, Then I answered: why is it that Africans can run so fast? And in Africa no physiotherapists are needed and nobody has worn hips. Moreover, in African cultures there is a very strong and lasting bond between mother and child. There is no separation fear. No matter how old you are, that bond with your mother is always there. We call that in Zimbabwe Bereka. ” Muchaneta could afford a pram, because she had a good education and a good job. ,, I lived in Zimbabwe for twenty years and came to the Netherlands with my brother in 1994. We lived in the Statenkwartier in The Hague. That is certainly not a poor neighborhood. I studied chemistry at TU Delft for three years and later studied accounting. I worked at large companies. When I had my first child, I stopped working. “
She had that pram because she and her Dutch husband wanted to participate in what is customary in the Netherlands when you have a child. ,, But we lived in an apartment on the second floor. How was I supposed to get that pram and my child up and down the stairs while I had just undergone a caesarean section? It also didn’t feel right to put my baby in that pram. I decided to wear her in a cloth on my back. It felt good right away. “
Due to the many comments and questions, Muchaneta became an expert in torso wear. Following the example of the African / Zimbabwean Mbereko®, she developed her own preformed sling. It became the basis for the many mberekos she subsequently made for other mothers. She expanded the explanation about the canvases to workshops and courses for mothers and later professionals, such as lactation experts and physiotherapists. “” My daughter was born in February 2008 and in October I was already asked to give a demonstration during the World Breastfeeding Week. I was invited to other fairs such as the nine month grant, also meetings of young mothers, also abroad such as Belgium, Scotland, and soon London ”
For example, she spread the carrying of babies in mberekos across the Netherlands. ,, In the beginning I did it all for free, while I saw others making money around me with the knowledge they had learned from me. In 2013 I got the Bereka company registered with KVK. I followed a course in Germany. Not that I learned much, but the diploma gave me more reach for professionals. I make tailor-made wraps. For that I buy genuine African fabrics and I make five different standard sizes that I can adapt to the personal physique. I give one-to-one consultations and group consultations. Torso wear consultants can follow a two-day course. I then teach them about making the fabrics, the correct posture when wearing – carrying a child in front of the chest is not good – and about the African culture of dealing with each other as a community when someone has a child. ” Already in 2011 Muchaneta developed the entire concept that also includes exercise activities. ,, African women carry their child with them all day, even when they are working in the fields. The BabyCarryWorkout® that I give is a kind of light aerobics, but with your baby on your back. In this way you become aware of your posture while moving and you learn about the physical development of a child. There are also fathers who participate because they also want to carry their child on their backs. “More and more institutions and professionals are consulting with Muchaneta about the health benefits of mbereko and in other areas it is gaining more and more recognition. But she’s not there yet. With her knowledge she certifies wear consultants and care professionals. Her dream is official recognition of her concept and Bereka Academy. She takes the first steps towards publishing books. After her book HumansBonded with stories about her life and the origins of Bereka, she hopes the book The art of African Ethnic Carrying Culture.To be issued at the end of this year.
The case Company: Bereka.
Founded: 2008
Number of employees: 2
Number of locations: 2
Active in: the Netherlands.

Published by Humansbonded

Muchaheta was now living in the Netherlands, far away from home and her extended family. Perhaps it was the distance or the time away from her roots that led her down a path to reconciling her traditionally African approach to child rearing with the new modern European scientifically tested advice she was consistently receiving. In doing so she began to craft out a unique path for herself and her growing family.

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