Just a few days after I arrived back in Uganda, I was able to meet with an Australian woman named Marg. Marg has spent considerable time here working on women's reproductive health education in an effort to reduce the fertility rate and break the poverty cycle. I was very fortunate to be able to meet with her because she was leaving to go back home to Australia the next morning. When I arrived at her place, she had just come out of a meeting and was ecstatic! Exhausted, but thrilled nonetheless. She told me that she had just received unanimous approval from a board of all males to move forward with her curriculum in their training center. Why was this so amazing? Because here in Uganda, if you don't start with the decision makers, you don't get anything done. And men happen to be the decision makers in this country...even about women's reproductive health...when and how many children their wives will have, the information and education (or misinformation and myths, rather) they get about their health, etc. I am so proud of the work Marg is doing alongside a local female doctor. Together, they hope to take it to the highest level in their government to create country-wide change. But right now, they're taking it one step at a time.
This type of education is probably one of Uganda's greatest needs. Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa. Cultural myths and traditions as well as poor knowledge in reproductive health drives the poverty cycle. The high abortion rate, gender inequality, high maternal mortality rate and excessive number of orphans and abandoned babies are just some of the tragic results of a high fertility rate.
During my meeting with Marg, she passed along a curriculum to me designed for exactly this purpose, but it doesn't start with reproductive health education right away. In order to create behavior change, they must first know the "why." Why is it important to control the size of your family? Why should you care? Why should you make this effort?
In order to bridge the gap between giving information and behavior change, I will begin with teaching Life Skills. This includes communication, decision-making and relationship skills. I am currently adapting this curriculum to my specific people group and culture. I am SO excited to teach this course! It will give these young people the skills necessary to make the best decisions for their lives, not only where reproductive health is concerned, but in every life decision they must make.
Please take a look at this short video. This is what I will begin my course with. It illustrates very well the issues and dangers Ugandans face without this vital education.
Written by Vanessa Crowley, Founts Community Health Initiative Director