Beyond Fears and Misconceptions: Village Health Teams Help Couples Access Modern Family Planning
Kyobe Sawula and Nakasumba Scovia, residents of Bekiina village in Mityana district, Uganda, are the parents of three children. They recently decided to start using depo provera, an injectable form of contraception, and say they now feel in control of their family and future.
This was not the situation four years ago, said Scovia: “Having conceived at only 17 years of age, I was forced into marriage.” After delivering her first child, Scovia accidentally conceived when her baby was only six months. “I knew it was too soon for me to be pregnant again but there was nothing I could do,” she said.
It was during Scovia’s second pregnancy that she met a village health team member, Imulani Mutyaba. Mutyaba introduced Scovia to modern family planning methods as an effective way to space her children.
Mutyaba met with Scovia and her husband Sawula so that both would understand how to use modern contraception and their benefits. “Convincing the couple that family planning is good was hard, because they had fears and misconceptions,” he said.
The couple feared having miscarriages, becoming a laughing stalk among peers, and failing to have other children if they started using modern family planning. Through several discussions, Mutyaba was able to help the couple appreciate the benefits of family planning. He counseled the couple and also referred them to the health facility to seek more help.
“The confidence that Mutyaba built in us led us to try these methods,” a smiling Scovia said. She started using depo provera after delivering her second child and conceived her third child after three years. Her husband appreciates family planning because he feels he has more time to plan for the family. “My wife now looks stronger and happier. The financial benefit of having a small manageable family has attracted me to family planning,” he said.
Imulani Mutyaba is one of the 174 village health team members in Butayunja Sub County, Mityana district that were trained by the USAID-funded, MSH-led STRIDES for Family Health project in March, 2012. The training equipped village health team members with knowledge of first aid and interpersonal skills, such as communication skills, to empower them to conduct community outreach activities, referrals, and household visits within their respective villages.
Village health teams are the first point of contact for health services in the community. They mobilize communities to access services from health facilities. Mutyaba explains that it is through understanding and appreciating the needs of each household that he is able to reach out to couples and refer them to a health facility for support.