Modern Maasai couples – and working mums – are choosing smaller, better educated families

Couples in rural areas of southern Kenya are bucking ancient Maasai tradition, which dictates that a big family is a status symbol, and choosing to have smaller families.

The change comes as community projects run by CHASE Africa and local partner Big Life Foundation offer family planning advice and access to contraception in Amboseli. Younger men and women are increasingly recognising the financial and educational benefits of having fewer children – while many women are also choosing to juggle family life with work to increase household income.

But for many rural women, difficulties accessing contraception, cultural norms and poverty prevent them from having the number of children they want. You can transform a rural woman’s life today, and your gift will be doubled through the Big Give Christmas Challenge from 1st – 8th December.

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Loise Nkonina, who has two children, was lucky enough to have been able to access family planning.

“We sat down as husband and wife and deliberated on the changes in life,” explains Loise (pictured, above left ), a teacher who is the main breadwinner for her husband and two children. We decided to have fewer children, whom we could comfortably bring up, feed, clothe and educate, rather than having many children who lack a good future.”

“In the past, the Maasai people loved many children,” says Loise’s husband, Samuel, a pastor (pictured, above right). “My own family consisted of ten children, but the world has changed.  You have to think, what does my children’s future look like. How will I sustain their education? I’ve realised we have to take a different direction to how our parents brought us up.”

In Kenya, around one in four married women did not want a child soon, or wanted to stop childbearing altogether, but were not using any method of contraception (Guttmacher Institute, 2008/9). On average, rural and poor Kenyan women have 1.5 to two children more than they actually want (Guttmacher Institute, 2008/9).

CHASE Africa enables men and women in remote rural areas to access family planning, sexual and reproductive health education and services. With local partners and the Ministry of health, CHASE Africa runs clinics in Kenya and Uganda, and organises workshops for men and women to find out the benefits of spacing their children. The organisation believes that giving a woman access to family planning can transform her life – and her children’s futures.

CHASE Africa also supports men’s barazas, or public meetingsto allow men to talk amongst themselves about family planning. The meetings frequently help to dispel deep-rooted cultural beliefs – for example, that using contraception will make a woman barren – about side effects. Now, many participants are helping educate fellow men in the community, to enable them to support their partners on matters of maternal health.

“I heard about family planning just recently in a men’s baraza,” says Steven Kasiane, who has had 13 children – five of whom died.

“The facilitator kept on saying that a planned family is a happy family, that they are content with the few resources they have – and they do not go around begging for food.

“That statement was a wakeup call. How I wished I heard it much earlier! After the meeting, I advised my wife to see a nurse. She is now is on long-term family planning.”

Birth spacing improves maternal and infant health, gives women time to take up non-childcare activities and reduces financial pressures on families, allowing them to give every child the best opportunities in life. Cultural barriers and misunderstandings often prevent families from using family planning. CHASE Africa raises awareness amongst men, women and youth to overcome these barriers, and allow women to make informed choices about their own bodies.

Your support will help CHASE Africa to reach the most marginalised and remote communities. From the arid savannah areas of Kenya, to the forested slopes of the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda, our mobile health and family planning services support communities living far from health clinics.

It costs on average just £7.50 to give a woman her choice of contraception, providing up to five years’ peace of mind. Transform a rural woman’s life today! This week only, your donation will have twice the impact.

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