Empowering Against the Odds: Inspirational story of a Woman who Champions Modern Family Planning in the Community

ADS South Rift breaks the barrier of deep rooted cultural myths and conceptions to embrace Modern Family planning methods in Narok through the USAID NPI Expand Project

ADS South Rift breaks the barrier of deep rooted cultural myths and conceptions to embrace Modern Family planning methods in Narok through the USAID NPI Expand Project

The dusty Ntulele-Ongata Naado road meanders across a silent scarcely populated remote village inhabited by the Maa community and terminates at Ongata Naado level-two hospital.

As you travel along the rough road, you will notice a 3- phase power line well fixed besides the road, probably an indication that the village is well-lit.

However, what could not be known to strangers is that despite the power line having been fitted over ten years ago, the locals have been living in darkness as the Kenya Power and lighting engineers disappeared immediately they fixed the wires.

The presence of scrubs and livestock feeding on bare vast lands is an indication that the area is among parts of Narok County that experiences prolonged seasons of dry spell.

After driving for half an hour along the rough road, we arrive at the home of Mrs Annet Kaigal, a Community Based Distributor (Community Based Distributors) who has been championing for the modern family planning in the area.

Annet doubles as a spiritual leader as she heads a local church in the village where hundreds of faithful seek spiritual nourishment.

As we interacted with her, she reveals that she was among the first people in the village to accept using the modern family planning methods, which she has been teaching the women in the village in a bid to have a manageable family.

Annet, a mother of five says she was trained by USAID New Partnership Initiative (NPI) program through the Anglican Development Service (ADS South Rift) where they were she was among many other women trained to distribute and offer family planning methods to the women.

“When I realized that the traditional way of family planning was not working, I decided to champion for the modern family planning methods in my village. I am very lucky because my husband supported me through out,” she says.

Annet explains that the traditional way of family planning in the Maa community was merely a separation of the man and woman for the period that the child was breastfeeding.

But according to her, the traditional method brought more harm to the community as the man would move around the village looking for women lovers while the woman would also look for secret lovers besides her husband to satisfy her sexual needs.

“This was dangerous as it increased chances of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among them HIV/Aids,” she explains, adding that the method was not efficient as women got pregnant immediately they united back with their husbands.

Annet lauded ADS program for prioritizing the village to enlighten both women and men in the area on the modern family planning methods.

She recalls that through the program, she was trained on how to administer family planning methods among them oral contraceptives pills, implants, injectable and condoms.

At the start, she says, “it was very difficult to convince the Maa women to accept the modern family planning methods as the community believed that they would make the women infertile, while others associated them with diseases such as cancer”.

The men in the community were equally opposed to family planning as they believed the method will remove the urge of sex from the women or become promiscuous.

Nevertheless, Ms. Kaigal explains how she boldly engaged both women and men in separate sensitization forums where she educated them on the importance of family planning.

“The church was also opposed to the practice, being a pastor; I received a lot of opposition and rejection. But with time, I was able to convince the congregation to accept the modern way of family planning,” reiterates Ms. Kaigal.

“Sometime I was forced to pop in men forums where I explained to them the program. At the beginning they rejected me and criticized me. Though it was challenging, I did not give up because I wanted to help my community. I continued until the community willingly accepted,” she continued.

Since Annet started the trainings about two years ago, the negative myths on the practice is slowly dying as the community has willingly accepted to use the Family planning methods.

“I started from zero, but today, at least seven people visit my homestead to be served. Most of the people prefer injections, while a few others prefer the pills. Hardly will you find someone requesting for condom,” she notes, adding that the services are done free of charge.

But for women using Family Planning for the first time and those with underlying medical conditions, Annet says she refers them to the health facility.

A visit at the Ongata Naado Dispensary that is about eight kilometers from her home, we find old buildings that somehow look deserted. Few minutes later, a group of three women are seen from a distance walking to the health facility

They were reluctant to speak to us but after introducing ourselves, they opened up and revealed how the Community Based Distributor have been helpful in distributing the Family Planning free of charge.

They acknowledged teachings by ADS South Rift that transformed their traditional way of family planning.

One of the women, Ms. Jenifer Dapash, says “the Community Based Distributor and the medics have been teaching us the importance of Family Planning. I have never developed any complications since I started using Family Planning method here at the facility”.

The hospital’s Nursing Officer, who doubles as the facility’s in-charge Amos Pushati tells us they have been working with the 25 active Community Health Promoters and four Community Based Distributors to spread the family planning gospel.

He acknowledges the great roles that NIP has played through the ADS program to enlighten the residents on Family Planning.

“Before we had numerous challenges addressing this community on issues related to Family Planning, but we are grateful that ADS came in and enhanced our sensitization programs. Today, over 75 percent of the women in this village use Family Planning”.

However, “during the dry seasons, the community members, who are nomads, migrate their animals to search for food and water. During these seasons, the rate of Family Planning intake is very low”.

The Officer also commended the men in the society for accepting their women to receive Family Planning, despite having opposed the program first.

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