A project igniting women’s empowerment through reproductive health rights.
This project was commissioned by Hivos.org. Hivos has supported organizations such as Women Promotion Centre (WPC) to prevent unsafe abortion by providing access to sexual and reproductive health services in Kigoma Tanzania.
Aulea Anthony is one of many women who took classes at WPC regarding family planning and contraception. After taking the classes and training she took it up to herself to go around schools in Kasulu village to educate girls and boys about safe sex, and the different types of contraceptive methods.
She says "Every year there would be cases of teen pregnancies in schools around my village (Kasulu). We would get about 3 - 4 girls getting pregnant and dropping out of school."
Aulea started educating secondary school girls about contraceptives and getting them all the information they needed since early January of this year, 2016. Aulea proudly says, "Since I started teaching, there hasn't been a single school pregnancy reported around my village to this date. I have been very successful in getting girls to use various contraceptive methods, but it hasn't been easy. Most of the girls have this misconception that if they use contraceptives they will get cancer and never give birth ever again".
Aluea uses her free time to educate more women like herself including secondary school teachers. She informs that "It's important to keep teaching girls and boys around the community and not wait for public health workers to visit us".
Benjamin Machono is a Community facilitator and Clinical Officer at Kasulu district hospital. Benjamin works closely with WPC regarding their teaching program. They organize meetings around villages neighbouring Kigoma to teach women and men about family planning, safe sex and unsafe abortions.
Here Benjamin is giving a talk on different types of contraceptives and safe sex. The teachings promotes family planning and ensures access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples, while supporting the health and development of communities. He also talks about the benefits of family planning to the local women in the community and encourages women to pursue additional education. This includes participating in public life, as well as paid employment in non-family organizations. Additionally, having smaller families allows parents to invest more in each child.
Benjamin further talks about the misconceptions and dark rumours surrounding the topic of contraceptives, encouraging the women to seek professional advice from local health centres and not fall into misguided understandings.
Margret Baluta is a local in Kasulu village. She received training at WPC regarding family planning and she's also a traditional birth attendant (TBA). This means that she has some medical knowledge that could help in cases of any emergencies during a traditional birth. Kasulu village still has women giving birth at home, the traditional way. Margret spends time educating pregnant women in her village and encourages them to go for regular checkups at the local clinics. She also encourages them not to give birth at home because of the high-risks that could be fatal to the mother and baby.
Margret mentions, "The education and training I received from WPC has helped us as a community here in Kasulu. Women are now more aware of the importance of visiting the local clinics and getting better health care for themselves and their babies, I have seen some good progress in my village but it's not enough, there are still many who prefer to give birth at home".
Margret says it's challenging because most of these women are not educated and mis-guided in the community. The only way she can see people taking this matter seriously is when the government steps in and enforces strict laws, otherwise this will keep on being a big problem in her village.
A portrait of Georgia Michael carrying her last-born. Georgia is one of the women that was rescued by Margret Baluta. She faced complications while giving birth at home.
Georgia says, "I was in so much pain and the bleeding wouldn't stop, Margret got there soon after I gave birth. She examined me and later put 3 Misoprostol pills under my tongue and told me not to swallow. The bleeding stopped shortly after".
Georgia has given birth to 4 children at home, and admits that her last one would have been fatal to her life or the baby’s, if it wasn't for Margret's help. Georgia is now receiving family planning advice from WPC and might be going in for an IUD insertion at the local clinic.
"After getting married, I had my first pregnancy. Everything went well and I gave birth to my first child”, says Sarafina Michael.
After giving birth, Sarafina asked the women around her community about using contraceptives. She says, "I got some really negative feedback, they told me that I could harm my body and that could lead to infertility. That thought itself scared me because I was worried my partner would leave me if he found out that I wasn't able to bear children anymore".
Sarafina decided not to consider contraceptives anymore. Six months after giving birth to her first child, she got pregnant again. Sarafina admitted, "When I found out I was pregnant again, I wanted to get an abortion. I didn't think I could nurse a baby while carrying another one".
She went to the local clinic for her abortion and met with a doctor who is also one of the educators at WPC. The doctor advised her not to get the abortion, instead, he advised her to have the second baby and he would teach her about family planning methods.
Sarafina says, "I agreed and gave birth to my second child. After that I went back to see the doctor. He took some blood tests, and later advised me to get an IUD. I took his advise and it's been 1 year and 7 months since getting the IUD. I'm pleased to say I feel so much better, I live a healthy life and have time to focus on raising my 2 children".
A thought provoking play, aimed to teach locals at Kigoma about family planning and the misconceptions surrounded by it. It's a play that's filled with emotion and humour. The actors re-enact scenarios that commonly occur in homes around village. In this case, the wife brought up the topic about contraceptives, and the husband reacts in a vile manner. Angry at his wife for considering such thing and worried that they will no longer have children. But after consultation from relatives and health care workers, the husband saw a great meaning and the importance of family planning.
The play is organized by WPC and is open to anyone around Kigoma.
Misingo is a 24 year old from Kigoma. When she was in high school, her and her friends decided to seek advice about contraceptives.
Misingo says, "We were all in relationships and feared that we might get pregnant while still in school. So we decided to go to a local clinic and speak to a nurse about it. We received very harsh feedback from the nurse who told us she wouldn't give us any contraceptives because we are still young and in school and we shouldn't be getting into relationships. A year later I got pregnant, while still in school. Luckily it was my last year, and I sat through my final exams while carrying a baby".
Misingo says, "My advice to health care workers is that, to never stop girls from getting the information they need. Especially girls in schools. It's important that they are taught about safe sex and contraceptives. We need those services because most of the girls in my school were in sexual relationships".
"The biggest challenges we face at Kirando Health Center is the growing numbers of patients but very little supplies. Roughly 60 thousand people depend on this clinic. Four of the neighbouring villages don't have a clinic at all, this causes an increase in women giving birth at their homes. A pregnant woman in pain cannot travel 15 km's in case of an emergency. The only way to solve this issue is to have the government build clinics in every village. But for now all we can do is give out education on family planning to all the women around the neighbouring villages”,
Dr. Ernest Shauri, Head of Kirando Health Center informs.
"I've been working at Kirando Health Center for 3 years now. I am part of the team that's involved in providing and teaching family planning methods to the people in our community. I was only trained to give out short term family planning methods; that's until Lake Tanganyika Floating Clinic stepped in and trained us on how to give out long term family planning methods. Since then, I've had 99 patients that came in for long-term family planning methods.
Some of our biggest challenges are not having enough basic supplies, things like gloves. We get women traveling long distances to get IUD insertions but we fail to assist them because we don't have basic clinic supplies”, Aphet Maganga earnestly states.
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Silivia Niclaus Jailos is a patient at Kirando Health Center. She's been ill for the past few days and has been receiving treatment at the clinic. Silivia had an IUD inception last year. When I asked her how has that helped her so far, this is what she had to say;
"I felt much better after going through it, it wasn't easy because there were rumours around the community that it would harm my body and that it's a big sin and not accepted in my religion. I'm happy I went through with it and my husband was very supportive. It's helped me to focus on other things, I now have a small business that helps me earn some money and not depend on my husband.
I try my best to encourage other women to seek advice from health care workers, but it's still a private issue and I can't talk about it openly in my community".
"There are dark rumours that women talk about when it comes to using contraceptives. I believed them at some point, and a lot of women still believe it to be true to this day. Some of which are; giving birth to a deformed baby or getting cancer. That in itself is a very scary thought to any women", says Adrophina Joseph.
Adrophina gave birth at Kirando Health Center and is now using contraceptives after taking family planning classes at the clinic.
"I want to live in a nation that recognizes and respects human rights and stands for gender equality, a nation that involves women in decision making".
Martha Jerom. Women's Promotion Centre (WPC) Coordinator and Secretary of Board.
"I wish that the community can have the right infomation about the use of contraceptives, and all members of society can recognize the dignity and worthiness of women and embrace the fact that sexual and reproductive health is a right to all women".
Ruth Kilezu. Assistant Officer in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, WPC.