We met Josephine in Barsaloi, her village, earlier this year, at our partner CHAT’s mobile clinic. Married at 12 or 13 to an older man of around 40, she is now a single mother of 9. When asked about her age, she wasn’t sure, but thinks she is around 30. Her husband passed away last year and two of her children have also passed away, leaving her with seven to support on her own.
“Of the seven, the eldest boy is not in school. Since my husband passed away, we decided that he should stay behind to take care of our livestock since they are the only livelihood we have. The second eldest, a girl, is in school. She’s just finished year 8 and I’m looking for ways for her to go to secondary school. My third, another girl, has married already.”
It is an ongoing struggle for Josephine to provide her children with the education and quality of upbringing she wants for them. It is only now, with the arrival of CHAT’s family planning services to her village, that Josephine has access to contraception for the first time.
“I have to congratulate CHAT, because it has really opened us our eyes and opened our minds. If these services had come earlier, I could have had a smaller number of children. I have decided not to have any more children, because the seven I have are already a very big burden to me, and I don’t have anyone to support me apart from my eldest son.”
At the clinic, Josephine chose the longer-term, 5-year contraceptive implant because she is still young and fertile, but does not want any more children, even if she finds a new partner.
“Traditionally, if your husband passes away, another person or relative will come and inherit the woman. So, because of that culture, I decided to go for long-term family planning so that I cannot have any more children if that happens.”
Despite the challenges of being a single mother, Josephine says that she now feels very free to pursue her own activities and go to work, without the risk of becoming pregnant again.
“I’m even championing family planning to the rest ofthe women in the village. The moment you stop having children, you have the strength to go and do so many other activities, rather than just being pregnant, breast feeding, being pregnant, breast feeding…”
Josephine did not go to school, and says that she did not receive any education about family planning until the arrival of CHAT’s services. Had she gone to school and learnt about the benefits of having a smaller, more spaced-out family, she says she would have had just three children. She is now encouraging her children, who are still in school, to have no more than two children once they get married.
Josephine says she has noticed the detrimental effects of a booming population on the environment even in her own lifespan. She would like to become a champion on educating people around the interlinking issues of family planning and the environment, also known as PHE – Population, Health and Environment.
“When we compare life before, we had plenty of animals which were very healthy, very fat. We had enough milk because the land was very good; it was not degraded like now. So, life at that time was very smooth, people were healthy because they had enough, and the population was smaller. But now, the population has increased, there’s not enough milk. Someone might have ten goats but he doesn’t get milk; even ten cows don’t provide enough milk for your children.”
“The environment used to be healthy. People were not struggling to go and look for pastures and water very far away. But nowadays we are struggling. When drought comes, we have to go very far away looking for water, for firewood, for pastures… which is a problem. And we can see that the more the population grows, the more the problem grows. So it’s better to have fewer people, smaller families that you can cater for and a healthy environment.
CHAT has come at the right time, because the population is really increasing and poverty is increasing with it. It’s better to reduce the number of children you have, so that at least you can have one or two children you can cater, for rather than having ten who are going to starve at the end of the day.
I just wish that CHAT could come here more often, because we still have a number of women who need a lot of education and support around family planning, like I got.”
With your support, we can continue to reach more women like Josephine in remote and marginalized areas of Kenya and Uganda. Just £7.50 is all it costs to provide a woman with a year’s worth of family planning and sexual and reproductive health education. Support us today at chaseafrica.org.uk/donate.