Joealia, 19-year-old, works at Kasenyi landing site at the shores of Lake Victoria, near Abaita Ababiri, in Katabi town council roasting and selling fish. Her first born is 3 years old and the second is 1.5 years old. She was defiled and married off as a teenager. Her husband has paid little attention to Joelia and her children’s wellbeing. Joelia was worried of possibility of conceiving another child which would affect her ability to run her small scale business of roasting fish at the roadside. When she heard of free access to Family Planning services offered by Family Medical Point during one of our community mobilizations, Joelia immediately made up her mind to uptake family planning. She received an implant and thought her worries had come to an end. She shared the news with her spouse, James who instead reacted violently, got a razorblade and forcefully cut out the implant and beat her up. Joelia spent a week in one of our facility beds nursing beatings and the cut because her husband views family planning as evil.
There are many Joelias in the slums and fishing communities across the areas we work in who are unable to make the important choice of when to get a family planning method and take control of the decision making when of when to become a mother. This violence has hindered the delivery of family planning services among these communities and our focus is to end Gender based violence associated with family planning by changing public perceptions and debunking myths associated to it.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) has in the recent years gained public attention but exploitative and choice-denying GBV associated with uptake of family planning directed towards women of reproductive age remains a silent evil in most parts of Uganda, often meted by male partners.
The Empower to Plan project sought to generate support from key stakeholders to champion safe delivery of family planning services to women of reproductive age through implementing a systematic behavior change communication campaign to transform attitudes of target community, eradicate gender based violence associated with family planning and empower affected women to know there is recourse to the violence.
We received support from Population Matters which enabled FMP to recruit, train and equip community volunteers Joelia inclusive with family planning and information packs, translated in to Luganda – the local language so as to champion against gender based violence associated with family planning. This funding also enabled the volunteers lead community engagements for a period of three months.
Every day, the volunteers strolled into the communities, joining men in their groups and introducing Family Planning discussions. The non-structured discussions allowed the volunteers opportunity to listen to the myths and misconceptions that the fisher mongers held and provided them with factual scientifically proven information about family planning, educated them about rights of women and the economic value of Family planning to women’s health, the family and community.
The friendly discussions allowed the men to ask questions and get guidance from volunteers about where to get additional information. The volunteers engaged women of reproductive age with information of recourse when their rights were violated. We trained the peer educators to directly work with Village Health Teams and local leaders to help victims of Gender Based Violence associated with family planning and those in need of additional support were referred to Family Medical Point for further support and counseling sessions.
The campaign we designed, #HerChoiceHerRight, disseminated key messages through community radio broadcasts and information, education and communication materials, which included t-shirts, posters, banners and brochures. We believe that over the course of the project, we reached 11,300 people through our community radio broadcast campaign.
The community volunteers held Door to door visits popularizing key messages against GBV thus triggering a process of self-reflection to rethink through individual beliefs, attitudes and perceptions about family planning. These household visits specifically triggered feedback and more engagements where most women reported issues of fear to uptake family planning and their silent problem of sexually transmitted infections with no money for treatment.
What we have achieved:
- There has been 20 -30% increase in the number of women seeking for family planning services from the target communities at our medical center.
- Police reports also indicate there has been a drop in cases of GBV associated with Family Planning reported in the last two months in the target communities.
- Most important is the relief that the women who have been battered felt as their men were engaged in discussions with the volunteers on why it is important to end the violence, understanding that there is recourse in case one violets a woman’s right to health. The transformation is at its initial stages and we believe it will take sustained effort to transform the community.
We believe it will take sustained effort to transform the community and we will continue to campaign against gender based violence – it’s crucial that the messages keep reaching the target, and that we continue to empower the community-based champions and build influencers among the men. It is also crucial that we get the next phase started as soon as possible.
Our thanks go to Empower to Plan supporters and Population Matters for supporting us as we lead this community transformation in Abaita Ababiri.