USING FAMILY PLANNING HAS ENABLED ME PLAN MY LIFE
Nalukwago Jalia, 22 a Member Nsangi Youth Club got her first child aged 19. She was unprepared and had no knowledge about sexual and reproductive health. Her first antenatal visit was characterised by a lot of stigma from “older” health workers.
“I Got my first child when I was 19, I had some challenges. During my first antenatal visit, I found some many old women at the facility so I was intimidated and decided to go back home without seeing the doctor. I was scared to tell the older women (nurses) that I was pregnant because of fear of being judged that how could I get pregnant at such a young age,” Jalia said.
Just like Jalia, a lot of young women in rural communities in Uganda share her experience. The socio-cultural barriers limit their access to SRH information and services. Myths and misperceptions around contraception remain widespread and public health facilities often lack youth-friendly services.
“I eventually got confidence to come back after talking to one of my peers who was older than me. When I came back, I found a group of my fellow peers who had gone through the same and where sharing their experiences,” Jalia narrated.
The peers that Jalia met and talked to had been supported by DSW under the Socio-Economic Empowerment project that is implemented by Action 4 health Uganda with support from BMZ –Federal Ministry for Economic Corporation and Development. The project involves establishment and provision of support to community youth clubs and Youth Empowerment Centres as social platforms, contact points and information access hubs from which young people are reached with SRH and livelihood programming.The project aims at improving the health and socio-economic situation of young people in Uganda supported by an efficient NGO and targets 40,000 (female and male) young people aged 15-24 in target communities in 5 districts of implementation namely; Wakiso, Mukono, Kampala, Tororo and Busia. Through this project, young people are trained to cascade SRH information to their peers. This is how Jalia got attached to the A4HU/DSW which she notes has helped change her life.
“I was trained by A4HU/DSW as a peer educator. I have worked as a peer educator for close to 4 years. I go to communities to mobilise my fellow youths to come to the health centre to receive SRH services, to test for HIV. I also encourage them to join the club because we do some many things in the club like piggery project and farming,” Jalia said.
“I thank A4HU/DSW because before being trained as a peer educator, I could never raise up and speak among my peers. The training and confidence I got from them has been very useful for my life.”
The training and confidence Jalia got has helped her secure a job at the health centre as a peer mother.
“Currently, I work as a peer mother at Nsangi Health Centre III where I talk and counsel young girls who get pregnant. I share with them my experience as a teenage mother to encourage them and understand that they are not alone so that they can come back for antenatal visits until the time they give birth,” Jalia noted.
Adding, “I also make follow up on them to ensure that they always come back to hospital but also ensure they are living a healthy lives as young people but also not to stigmatise themselves for getting pregnant while they were young. I also make sure that the project we have invested in act as an example for young people. (Model club in community”
Jalia has a lot of plans for herself and her child who she says started going to school already. “I want to buy a plot of land and keep my child in school until I am ready financially to get another,” she said.
And for her to be able to achieve her dreams, Jalia revealed that she is using family planning.
“I am currently using coil (IUD) which has helped me so much to plan for my life. I tell this as example to encourage other young people to use their preferred method. I therefore encourage other young people who are not ready to give birth to use family planning because abstaining is tricky. Because of FP, I have managed to look at my child who is now 3 years old and I can at least get for him all the basics of life,” Jalia noted.